Off the Mat with Debi Grilo: Magical Thinking

I just finished hiding Easter Eggs for my daughters.  This ritual brought back so many memories of when I was young. The visuals in my head are so clear of waking up in the morning to see our living room in a rainbow of colors and candy. I can still feel the excitement I had when I imaged the Easter Bunny hopping through our green tulip-lined lawn and into our house delivering candy.  It was magic and I believed.

I miss this naiveté, this feeling of believing in something as magical as a little bunny hopping around the world delivering candy to all the little boys and girls, with enough love, peace, and chocolate for all, especially when we experience the horror of what happened in Europe last week. Experiences as horrific as these or something as simple as feeling left out by our friends can trigger stress in our nervous system. These experiences can create negative thought patterns, which play over and over again in our minds like the 24-hour news cycle, highlighting the worst of human nature and our deepest fears.

When we get stuck in these negative thought patterns, our body gets tricked into believing we are at risk or in danger, and then our body begins to create the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can impact our health negatively. The stress cycle gets self-perpetuated over and over again until we no longer recognize it as an unhealthy pattern and just see it as the way things are.

This stress cycle is why the practice of yoga asana and meditation are so powerful. It is through the practice of asana that we gain awareness of physical sensations. When we increase our awareness of our physical sensations, we can start to see them as just that—sensations. Through mediation we learn to create space between our thoughts and to distinguish what is real from what is story.  When we strengthen these skills, we can begin to break the patterns of habitual thoughts and retrain our mind. In the retraining of our minds, we can choose how we feel and think in any situation, and do so hopefully in a way that supports our highest level of being.

As adults, it is not practical for us to go back to the magical thinking of childhood, nor is it beneficial to get lost in the cycle of negative thinking. It is our responsibility as adults to live in the practice of mindfulness. We need to strengthen the muscle of the mind (Chitta Bandha) to recognize negative thought patterns quickly and swiftly, and then to choose new thoughts. This is how we create new neural pathways in the brain, and, eventually, the new positive thought patterns become the norm. Just like with any muscle we train, the more we practice, the more masterful we become. The quality of our life is in direct correlation to the quality of our thoughts. Like the title of Wayne Dyer’s book says, “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.” When we choose our thoughts mindfully and wisely, we will manifest the real magic of life.

 

 

 

 

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