Looking back at blog entries, I noticed that exactly a year ago I was blown away by the concept of Neuroplasticity. This week has been another big epiphany about the power of the mind in responding to situations around us.
Every second Sunday we have been doing this thing called Solace at Tribe. A few of us get there a little early and spend some time meditating and reflecting and realigning ourselves with the ‘Jesus way’. This week, Jono and Allyssa shared with us some incredible insights from their own journey out of Jono’s chronic pain into absolute health- in terms of physical capabilities, diet and mental strength.
They started off with the concept of ‘Editing’ and how we all do this, whether subconsciously or consciously, every day. They demonstrated this by getting us to look around the room and pick out all the red objects, then close our eyes and reel them off. We then had to keep our eyes closed and remember all the blue objects. Even though there was a blue object right next to each red one, our brains didn’t focus on and remember these items anywhere near as efficiently.
The ‘red’ objects in our lives can be pain or negative moments or particular struggles that we have going on at the time. For Jono to get better he had to learn to re-edit his day, so that for the first little while he was only able to tell Allyssa about the blue or positive aspects that had happened. As he learned to focus on the positive, his mind began looking for these things and not focusing on the negative as much. Apparently, no one is born an Optimist or Pessimist- we are created or create ourselves this way.
Already this week Dave and I have been practicing this editing concept and it has been so powerful. Usually, when Dave asked me how the day is going, I tended to pull out all the crazy, dramatic things that weren’t going to plan. Then at the end of the day, even if 98% of it had been positive, if the last 5 minutes had been crap, it would be the majority of the story I would be re-telling.
The power of language was another insight that was shared. Jono asked what happened if he told us ‘don’t think about a midget juggling fish’. Immediately, the image invaded our minds. The power of telling ourselves ‘not to’ focus on something or ‘don’t behave like that’ is actually reinforcing the behaviour we want to avoid.
I have struggled with this for a while but haven’t had the understanding to come out of it. When I would feel myself slipping into a dark place or into rage, I would try and tell myself not to go there, but it would do absolutely no good. Even this week, just before Dave left for work he spilt a full cup of coffee all over the bench, all over the dishwasher and down the cupboards and floor. At first I did struggle with feelings of annoyance and frustration, as ‘this is not how I was picturing my morning’ and ‘mornings are hard enough without all of this mess to clean up’. I began to tell myself ‘don’t go there’ but then realised it was the wrong approach. Instead, I began thinking about how Dave had selflessly got up half an hour before me that morning, got the kids up and got them breakfast, made me toast in bed, and had made me a cup of coffee! The gratitude then overwhelmed the frustration and I was able to recover! Sounds like a no-brainer but it really isn’t when you are on the edge of that ‘losing perspective’ precipice.
For Jono it was about telling himself what he wanted, and not in a negative way like ‘I want to be pain-free’. He had to instead say ‘I want a knee that can move smoothly and that I can walk on’. His mind was then able to channel energy into making that happen, rather than reinforcing the victim mentality that he was at Pain’s whim. He had to say ‘I’m doing pain’ not ‘I’m in pain’ because he was then owning his part in the situation.
Changing our mindset to focus on the positive thing that we want rather than the negative behaviour or struggle we want to avoid can be so powerful. Just looking at Jono now, running in the gym playing soccer, bouncing off the walls playing with the kids, wrestling his nephews and offering help to whoever is in need, it is incredible to see how far he has come. Less than two years ago he was unable to walk on a hard floor without pain, perched uncomfortably on a chair in the corner with a barely masked agony rippling through his face, unable to type on a computer or play his beloved drums or guitar. What a difference the mind can make…
Already this week I can see so many situations that would have gone differently if I hadn’t been at Solace on Sunday. Last night, as I made my way onto the Monash Freeway at 6:45pm I was greeted by a parking lot of cars. I said to the kids, ‘We can get angry and frustrated by this situation and lament the fact that it is going to take us a very long time to get home, or we can relax, sit back, turn up the music and enjoy our warm and cosy car!’ Despite it taking us over an hour to get home, we had a positive time together and I learned as much as they did! Despite the fact it ‘wasn’t how I pictured the ride home going’, I realised we were so lucky that we had a warm car with plenty of petrol, that the kids had nappies on and I didn’t need to go to the toilet (for once!).
I’m really excited by these epiphanies and so pumped that I get to share them with Eli and Hudson and hopefully help them shape really healthy and positive frameworks to view life by. When the mind is as powerful as it is, to be able to channel that power to completely change your situation is incredible. What a privilege that is….