You ever experience this?
Maybe you texted someone and they haven’t texted you back yet.
Your brain starts cookin’ up some story about how they must be angry with you — and in reviewing the last time you saw each other, now you’re seeing all those memories through this they-must-hate-me lens.
By the end of the day you’re convinced that your friendship is over and now you’re just waiting for the big blow-out. And also, certainly this is the end of the world and the end of all good things forever and always.
And then, a text:
“hey what’s up?”
Our brains are built to tell stories. We’re really good at it. But sometimes we make stories before any real, true thing has happened yet. And we buy into them.
It’s a protection instinct. Brace for the blow.
I do this ALL. THE. TIME.
What I’ve been trying the last few weeks is to ask myself, when Anxiety arrives:
“What stories am I telling myself about this moment?”
What are the true, unbiased things that have happened?
I texted her.
She hasn't texted me back. Period.
The story I'm telling myself is that the reason she hasn't texted me back is because I did something to make her angry with me.
But she hasn't told me she's angry with me. There's no reality in this story.
So, the next question is: Why do I get hooked by this story?
Everyone gets "hooked" by different stories. I get hooked by "imposter syndrome" stories. I get hooked by stories about whether my friends like me. Those stories might not hook you -- but maybe a story about how you're supposed to look, for example, is the one that hooks you.
The reason one story might hook me, but not hook you, is totally dependent on my experiences, and how I've responded to them in the past. That friend I'm waiting for a text from? She's never told me she doesn't like me, and in fact, quite the opposite -- but it's something I've told myself in moments of doubt, repeatedly, out of fear from past experiences where I was hurt by someone I trusted and loved.
The more I repeat this pattern of
Doubt --> Fear --> I did something wrong --> She doesn't like me,
I'm literally carving and recarving a neural pathway in my brain. It gets easier and easier for my brain to jump from Doubt to She doesn't like me.
And it becomes a hook that takes me out of reality and the present moment, and into this story that I've been crafting for years.
The story might end up being true and it might end up being false. But 9 times out of 10 it’s a story about something that hasn’t actually happened.
And if I can just stay present, it allows me to worry less about the future, and just tackle hard things as they come, instead of always be in “oh-shit-oh-shit” mode.
I can literally create a new neural pathway in my brain:
Doubt --> Fear --> I did something wrong --> HOLD UP, girl. That's a Story.
I can train my brain to acknowledge stories as they arise, and see them for exactly that:
Just a story.
Does this land for you? Let me know in the comments below.
P.S. Here's a video on neural plasticity demonstrating the ability of the brain to adapt and change with mindfulness:
My final assignment with my Peace in Schools mindfulness training, is to create my very own, four-hour retreat.
So I thought I’d share my process with you, so that you can create one for yourself, too!
Let’s start with WHY. Why create a retreat for yourself? Well, as Peace in Schools says, “We often talk in mindfulness about giving ourselves the gift of our own attention.”
What arises when we give ourselves attention?
In my busy day, I frequently push thoughts aside because I need to focus on the task at hand. Nothing wrong with that! In fact, it’s necessary to function and be our best self.
But I find that if I push aside, and push aside, and push aside, and I don’t create time at the end of my day to stop and give attention to those things pushed aside, Anxiety arises. Or sometimes, Frustration, frequently partnered with his good pal, Displaced-Irritation.
I’m thinking of this retreat as an opportunity to invite in what I have been pushing aside.
There are big changes happening in my life right now -- so I am also seeing this as an opportunity to widen my focus for a little bit. Instead of just getting through the day’s tasks, pull back. See the bigger picture. And of course, note what arises.
As best I can, I’m letting go of any expectations for this retreat. I’m not expecting it to be calming and relaxing, but I’m also not expecting to start balling after examining my innermost truths. Both of those things might happen. Or neither. Regardless, I trust that I am adequate to experience whatever arises, and be okay.
At least, this is what I’m aiming for. This is what I’m practicing. Can’t make any promises to be perfect. ;) But practice is what it’s all about, right?
Alright. Let’s build this thing.
Like any good recipe, let’s start with the ingredients.
You will need:
FOUR HOURS OF TIME:
My husband and I are in the midst of closing on a house, so I’ve scheduled my retreat to happen on a day that I *hope* will allow me to practice in the new house. I think that this would be a really lovely way to introduce myself to this house and kickstart our life in it.
I’ve already told my husband which day it is, what room I’ll be in, and that he’s not allowed to come bug me unless it’s an emergency. Boundaries, baby!
I know that I’m going to want to do some mindful movement, so I’m planning on wearing something comfortable but not so comfy that I’m tempted to just take a nap. ;) I want to feel good in whatever I’m wearing.
No tech is a little tricky because I was thinking I’d use my phone to track time. I guess this means I’m going out to get some sort of clock! I’ll update you when I do.
I’ve planned my retreat for the morning, when my mind is clearest. If you’re not a morning person, don’t feel like you have to do your retreat then. Schedule it for the best time of day that works for your schedule and your ability to focus.
So! For my meal, I’ll be having a yummy lunch! I think I’m going to make a really big salad with all my favorite things. And a cookie. A really, really good chocolate chip cookie. I’m already excited.
SOMEWHERE TO PRACTICE:
Like I said, I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to host the retreat in our new house. But if not, I’m planning on doing part of it in my apartment and part of it at the park that’s near us.
You can see my retreat schedule by joining our amazing Patrons for as a little as $1/mo! Enso Patrons support our work every month and are an invaluable source of support and consistent income for our growing non-profit.
When you join, you'll get access to tons of behind-the-scenes content that we only post for Patrons, and of course all the public stuff too. <3
Take a minute, check it out. And THANK YOU.
Ever found yourself struggling to stay present in rehearsal?
Maybe you’ve got a to-do list nagging at you, or maybe you’re wrestling with that voice telling you you’re not good enough. Maybe there’s some rough waves you’re navigating in your personal life.
Sometimes, I want to be present in rehearsal. I want to be able to let go of whatever is in my head, and connect with my partner. But I just can’t seem to get grounded.
Here is a mini-meditation you can try to lovingly bring your mind back to your scene work:
Take a big deep breath, get back in there, and kick some ass.
Be sure to do what you told your body you were going to do -- actually tend to yourself the way that you need when you get home! Journaling, taking a walk, meditating, jumping in the bath...all great ways of tending to arising fear/anxiety/criticisms/negative self-talk.
How do you handle your Imposter Syndrome or Inner Critic when they arrive in rehearsal? Comment below!
Caitlin & The Ensemble