I’d like to start a series of blogs focused on gaining clarity on who you are, and what your direction or purpose in life is. If you know the answer to these questions, then your day-to-day life can be focused on achieving your personal mission, your true “One Thing.” These are big questions, but the first piece of good news here is that they can be answered, and it is as simple as asking the questions… and then listening.
The person that we’re asking is ourselves, and then we need to be open to listening to ourselves, which for most of us will require a little bit of prep work. We need to gain control over our minds, training ourselves to slow down and eliminate the “monkey mind” chatter that is pulling us in multiple directions, much of it driven by subconscious negative thought patterns that we might not even know exist. Then we can sink into a contemplative state and ask questions of our inner selves that might not be readily apparent to your rational mind. But if we don’t do the work and instead try to skip ahead, maybe sit down in a Zen pose and ask our untrained mind “Who am I?”, we might get more surface level, rational answers, like “I am 34 years old,” or “I am a plumber, or a mother, or a Christian.” All of those things may accurately describe roles that you have in your life, and they may be a big part of your overall Purpose, but maybe we can get more insight by going deeper.
We’ll follow a process that I learned in my Unbeatable Mind training called Witnessing. Here it is in step-wise fashion, and then we’ll dig into #1:
- Learn to Focus your mind on One Thing. Your breath is a great tool, or it could be a mantra that you repeat.
- Notice when your focus shifts to other thoughts.
- Improve the time it takes to notice the shifting to other thoughts
- Recognize the Witness as the aspect of you that notices the thinking
- Reset your center of awareness at the Witness, gaining control over your thinking
So, Focus on One Thing. Simple but not easy, because we are all so scatterbrained due to so many distractions in our lives (cellphones and screens everywhere, news reports throwing all kinds of negativity at us, mental conditioning from our parents and other early influences). But with practice, it will get easier. For starters, just sit comfortably in a chair or lay down where you won’t be interrupted (just don’t fall asleep!). Take nice deep breaths. Begin to “box breathe” – breathe in for a 5-count, hold for 5, breathe out for 5, and hold for 5. The counting will help you concentrate on your breathing, and that’s the key here – try to keep your focus on your breath. If you find your mind wandering and start thinking about something, just let that thought go and come back to your concentration practice on the breath.
Aim to do this for 5 minutes at first – you can even set an alarm on your phone to time your practice. The goal is to increase the amount of time that you can Focus on One Thing. Up to 20 minutes and you’re getting pretty good at this!
Next time we’ll get back into this process and delve a bit more into step #2 – noticing the thought patterns that come up and having a strategy to deal with negative thoughts. For now, practice Box Breathing each day if you can. I like to do this in the morning when the house is nice and quiet and there are no immediate distractions to deal with. Again, start with 5 minutes and on days when you have a bit more time, go a little bit longer. Let me know how it goes!