The Voice In The Head

Posted Posted in Essential Topics

Everybody has one. It’s annoying and it’s persistent. It likes to talk. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the voice in the head! Some are chattier than others, some are louder than others, and some are angrier than others. Some sound saner than others. Honestly, though, most people think they’d be locked up if other people heard their voice in the head. I know because people tell me. It’s like a confession. They get quiet and look around, even though we’re in a small closed office with a fan. I start laughing. So maybe it makes you feel better to realize you’re not alone.

The main thing to know regarding the voice in the head is that it’s not you. The other main thing is that you don’t really have to believe it. It’s usually just having a conversation with itself about some scenario that’s been played out a thousand times already. Whenever you notice it, just stop. Then there is silence. Then you note what you’re reacting to or thinking about, and you ask yourself if you need to do any conscious, active thinking about it. If so, do it. If not, go about your day in peace. And when you notice the voice in the head return, as it will, just stop again. Let it go. Silence. Is there anything you need to do any real thinking about? If so, do it. If not, go about your day in peace.

There’s no need to get into what it is or where it comes from. Just know that it’s this annoying thing that gradually loses its power over you the more you practice stopping. Mine still talks all the time, but it doesn’t carry much weight anymore. It’s been so long, in fact, since it did carry weight that I’d forgotten about that until maybe a couple months ago. Somebody was talking about their voice in the head being loud and angry. I was probably thinking something like, “Man, that would suck.” Then I remembered that mine used to be the same way! Now it’s like a jack-in-the-box. Children are afraid of it, but adults laugh at it. No big deal.

A very practical tip is to not get frustrated whenever you notice it. Just stop. It really is that simple. When I started this practice – becoming aware of the voice in the head and then stopping – I would get frustrated that it kept coming back. I’d stop, but with a tinge of annoyance and even embarrassment that this insane conversation was going on. I was fighting it. After a while I realized there’s no point in feeling annoyed or embarrassed. Just stop that, too! Picturing a stop sign can help for the visual folks out there – whatever works for you. Either way, you have silence in an instant when you stop. You might even laugh sometime when you do this.

So let’s wake up to the fact that the voice in the head is really no big deal. Just stop. If you need to really think about something, then do it. But real thinking and the voice in the head are two very different things.

What Is A Clean Mind?

Posted Posted in Essential Topics

So just what is A Clean Mind? I’m so glad you asked… It’s very, very simple, and it’s extremely powerful. It’s versatile as well – it applies to all areas of your life. This is Human 101, a required course. The only problem is that we aren’t really offered this course, though, unless we look for it. This usually happens when things go south and we are forced to grow.

A Clean Mind is very basic, but you’ll see that it’s so different than the way that most of us have been living that it can take some practice. Also, it’s nothing new and it’s definitely not original to me. People have been living this way for thousands of years, and plenty do today, but it’s few and far between. Just take a look around. Back to our topic…

A Clean Mind is totally internal. It’s all about two major things – feeling and thinking. In terms of feelings, you’ll know crystal clear that feelings come and go as we live life. They are nothing more than the body’s reaction to whatever you’re thinking about or experiencing at a given moment. When you understand this, you’re able to let go of what you’re carrying from the past as well. In terms of thinking, it’s all about how you see things as opposed to the things themselves. That’s huge. It’s also about understanding that the annoying voice in the head is not you and it’s not to be believed. Over time, you can take the power from it so that it’s just not a big deal.

What I just described is A Clean Mind in a nutshell. This is in stark contrast to how most people live. Most people react all the time. A Clean Mind acts. Huge, huge difference. Most people don’t understand that unpleasant feelings like anger, sadness, stress, and anxiety are totally normal under certain situations. These people make a problem out of these feelings (as if the situation itself weren’t unpleasant enough), and this makes the situation worse. That’s self-inflicted pain. Not a good plan. Now we can learn that there’s another way.

This blog has lots of posts that describe A Clean Mind in action. This is designed to show you real life examples so that you can learn it for yourself. That’s really my main point, by the way – that all of this is stuff that you can learn. You don’t have to be born that way. And then you practice. And life will bring you exactly what you need to learn at any given moment. After a while, it takes more and more to rattle you. You’re well on your way to inner peace.

Before I go, let me be a broken record real quick. I can’t stress the importance of understanding how feelings work in the body. I don’t see how anyone can be at peace without knowing about this. And it’s so ridiculously simple – they flow in, they stay for a bit, and then they flow out. Then the other thing is taking control of what you’re telling yourself and what you’re believing. Most people don’t even question the voice in the head. That’s the way of pain, and there’s a way out. When you notice it, just let it go. Stop. Take a breath. It’s just the voice in the head. No big deal.

My goal is simply to help people live at peace, regardless of the circumstances. We’ve all tried to control the circumstances, and that doesn’t work for long. That’s called external peace. The spiritual teachers all talk about inner peace, and that’s what we’re going for here. These concepts are simple, but they take practice – it’s all about doing it in the moment. It becomes more natural as you break those old habits, and it doesn’t have to take long before you’re well on your way to having A Clean Mind. You’ll know that you’re a different person than before. If I can be of help, just let me know. Either way, I wish you all the best. This stuff is so cool…

Feelings 101

Posted Posted in Essential Topics

Let’s demystify feelings – this alone can totally change your life. Here we go… Feelings are basically the body’s reaction to what’s going on or to what you’re thinking about. They are normal. They aren’t bad, and there’s nothing wrong with them. They come, they stay a while, and then they go. It’s a lot like the weather. When you notice anger in your body, for instance, don’t make a big deal out of it. Just breathe, feel it, let it be there, and let it go. Don’t hold on to it. It’ll pass when it’s time for it to pass.

How do they get stuck? It has to do with the “don’t hold on to them” part. When we resist them and make a problem out of them, like calling them bad, we’re holding on and they can’t pass. When we tell a story about them, we’re holding on. This story includes who, what, when, where, why, and how. It often runs on repeat in our minds, and there’s usually at least some amount of exaggeration. The story might seem totally justified, but we’re still getting the feeling stuck. If you lose the words and just feel and let it go, it’ll pass as quickly as it can. It’s the fastest way out.

When you notice any feeling in your body that you don’t like (i.e. anger, sadness, stress, anxiety, loneliness, frustration), the best thing to do is to stop thinking immediately. Go inward and check out what you’re carrying at that moment. Take stock of what’s there. Then make the decision to let go of it. Don’t hold on to it – just let go. Totally let go. Breathe and relax those specific areas in the body where you feel it. This allows it to be there for as long as it will naturally and normally be there, but more importantly it allows it to leave when it’s ready to leave. That’s the normal, everyday feeling process for a human. No big deal.

When we have the story running in our head that makes the feeling into a problem, we’re not allowing it to pass like it normally would. We’ve made it bigger than it is, and we’ve closed the doors. It came in normally, but now we’re not letting it leave normally. Always keep in mind that feelings are in the realm of the temporary – no feeling has ever been permanent. Some stay longer than we’d like, and I realize that some people can barely remember when they weren’t depressed, for instance, but there was a time. This is still in the realm of the temporary. Feelings come and they go. That’s the law of feelings.

Finally, note that most people suppress or express. And if they suppress, they’ll eventually express when the feelings boil over. Expressing means yelling, fighting, etc. It can be much more subtle than that, too, especially with people who know each other well like spouses or other family members. What can we do en lieu of suppressing and expressing? Feeling. That’s it. If you want to really understand this, I’d read about The Sedona Method. This book goes very deep with it. And it’s as simple as it is deep, which is the kind of thing I like. Serious Jedi stuff. Enjoy!

Thoughts 101

Posted Posted in Essential Topics

Here’s the deal with any thought or belief (they are the same thing, pretty much)… If it’s true, keep it. If it’s not, pitch it. It’s that simple. This comes from the incredibly powerful and yet simple work of Byron Katie. Check her out. I’ll be giving a very brief and spotty overview of what she calls The Work, but I am in no way trying to claim it as my own or even go through it with any thoroughness. You can refer to her website, which is full of incredible material. She even has a children’s book that is amazing.

When I ask if a thought is true, I don’t mean that you think it’s true. I don’t mean that it’s 99.999% true. I mean that it’s totally, absolutely 100% true and you know that it’s 100% true. If it’s causing you any lack of peace and you can’t know this, then pitch it!

When we take a close look at the things that we believe, it can be pretty shocking. Most of it is trash, to be honest. And other thoughts might seem innocent enough, but they are really causing us pain when we take a look. If you’d be more peaceful without a certain thought and you can’t know that it’s true, then pitch it! After that, only the bad feeling that the thought caused will remain, and you just feel it and let it go. It will eventually go away (see Feelings 101).

So if you don’t feel good, you might want to search your mind for what you are believing. Ask your self if it is true. Ask yourself if you can really know that it’s true. Ask yourself how you feel with this thought. Ask yourself how you would feel without this thought. At this point, you’ll know whether it’s worth keeping or not. We have high standards here at A Clean Mind – only true thoughts get to live in our heads. When in doubt, let it go. If it really is true, it won’t go anywhere anyway.

The other aspect to thoughts is that the constant voice in the head that has a conversation with itself all day long is not real thinking. Just let it go when you notice it. This is HUGE. So huge, in fact, that there’s an entire blog post written about it here. Definitely read this – it’ll help you to be at peace.

Control Freak!

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories, My Stories

I saw an old college friend at a wedding not long ago, and he said he’d been told he was a “control freak.” He didn’t know what that meant, so he looked it up and discovered that that’s exactly what he was! I laughed and said that I’m a Virgo with two math degrees and tight hamstrings, so I know this pattern well. The good news, though, is that it’s only a pattern. It’s not who you are.

I know it can be shocking to see something in yourself that you don’t like. You can’t do anything about it unless you first see it, though, so I say bring it on. No time like the present. And of course we aren’t really in control of the timing of things anyway, so we might as well not resist it.

So let’s say you’re aware of a pattern in yourself that you don’t like. What next? It’s time to bust yourself. Busting yourself just means stopping when you notice it. Wake up for a second, take a breath, and let go of what you’re carrying in that moment. Remind yourself that this is just that pattern – this is what it looks like in action. Then either continue doing it or not, but at least you’re awake now. Most of the time, people aren’t even aware in the moment that they’re engaging in their various patterns.

Note that there’s nothing inherently wrong with a pattern. If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, though, then it’s time to start noticing it. In the moment in which you notice it in action, you have a choice where there was no choice before. You used to be asleep and now you’re waking up. And if you choose to continue to engage in it, at least tell the truth about what’s going on. Drop the guilt and self-criticism, though. Either do the pattern or don’t. If you stop making a problem out of it, then it’s easier to let it drop away anyway.

The Sedona Method book gets into some pretty deep stuff involving habits and patterns. First of all, they have you notice any resistance associated with the habit, welcome it, and then let go of it. If I’m acting controlling and I don’t like that about myself, then noticing it might make me feel bad right away. If I beat myself up on top of that, though, then I’ve doubled my pain. Sweet. This is the resistance. If we let go of the resistance, then the pattern is easier to accept and then change or not.

Going deeper, the Sedona Method looks at the underlying wants associated with the habit or pattern. They boil it down to wanting approval, security, control, or separation. When we release on these things, it can be quite powerful.

So don’t worry if there’s a pattern you don’t like. First, accept that it’s there and don’t make a huge problem out of it, because that keeps it stuck. And remind yourself that you can’t do anything about it if you’re not aware of it. Then bust yourself. And reading The Sedona Method might be a relatively cheap and easy way to go really deep with it. Working on resistance and the underlying wants can be pretty mind blowing. As always, let me know if I can help.

Anxiety Attack Unplugged

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories, Common Issues

A client was telling me how she hasn’t been going to the gym very often in the last couple of months. I had been seeing her for about that amount of time, and she had told me in our first session that she had been drugged and raped by a bunch of muscle-bound guys about ten years ago. She said that ever since that happened, she has had anxiety attacks when she sees the gym where those guys worked out, sees big muscle-bound guys, or hears the word “rape” or “gym.” These are triggers that tell her body to go into a certain mode in which she gets tense, she sweats, her hearts races, and her breathing speeds up. This is the anxiety attack, or panic attack.

A good analogy is that the mind is the software and the body is the hardware. When she was raped, her mind basically got programmed to freak out at the triggers mentioned above. When any of these things happen, her body follows her mind’s instructions and in only a split second it starts to react with the panic attack. She has a prescription for Xanax, which relaxes her body. It does a great job at treating the symptoms. If a person is really tired of this game, though, then it might be time to treat the cause. Let’s go right to the source, the mind, and change the software. And that’s what we started to do that day.

So we’re sitting in my office, and she mentions that she hasn’t been going to the gym very often recently. I replied that I thought she said could not even drive by gyms, much less go inside to work out. My asking that question is all it took and her body started freaking out. She got tense and started to sweat, and she said she was having an anxiety attack. “Here it comes,” she said. Her heart was racing and her breathing was quick and shallow. She began to reach for her purse to take a Xanax. I asked her if she would be willing, since she was in a safe place, to hold off for a few moments and just surrender to the panic attack. Breathe and feel and let go. She could always take the medication.

She wasn’t thrilled at the idea, but she agreed. So she just sat there and let it be there, breathing and feeling, and she experienced it directly without a story. I reminded her that she was in a very safe place, and the Xanax would still be there anytime she wanted to take it. Let’s just try it another way, the opposite way, this one time. Let’s just sit still and surrender to it.

She was shaking and sweating. I had her breathe and relax into it as much as possible, just feeling it without any words. Don’t call it anything, and definitely don’t tell a story about how it happened, why it happened, whose fault it was, etc. She said she really felt embarrassed that it had happened. I told her to just let herself be totally, completely embarrassed in that moment. Be embarrassment itself. Just surrender to it and feel it all the way through.

After about five minutes, she smiled and said it was passing. She literally could not believe it. She said this was the first time she had had one of these anxiety attacks without taking Xanax. She didn’t know that she could weather this type of storm. I told her about the hardware/software analogy and told her that in only five minutes, we had gone to the cause of the problem and had essentially told the body that it didn’t have to freak out anymore at these triggers. There’s nothing wrong with taking the Xanax, unless of course you want these attacks to finally lose their power. If this is what you want, the irony is that you have to go there and let it be. Go into it. Let it consume you. Invite it and meet it head on, face to face. The trick is to do this and only this, though. No story, no reasons, no victims, no good, no bad. No words or language at all. Just feel it. In that feeling, you might learn that it can’t really touch you. This is true acceptance, and it’s very powerful.

NOTE: Be very careful if you experiment with this. My client was in a safe place in my office when she did this. Also, there’s a time and place for medication. I am in no way saying that medication is bad or that you shouldn’t take it. I’m also not saying that panic attacks are no big deal. They’re very scary and powerful. But this post is meant to show you that they might not be as powerful as we think if we take a deeper look.

Did My Friend Die?

Posted Posted in My Stories

I heard news recently that a friend had died… possibly. The news was third-hand, so it had to be verified. I received the news via voicemail from another friend asking if I could confirm. I’m writing this to illustrate how powerful feelings are, as well as how we can best deal with them.

I was walking to my car when I heard the voicemail. I needed to call my friend back to get more information, but I felt a bit choked up and knew there was something I needed to do right away – stop and feel, without thinking of course. Just feel and let go. When I got to my car, I sat down and did not turn the car on. I just sat there, closed my eyes, stopped thinking, and just thoroughly felt what my body was carrying at that moment, how it was reacting. It was time to check in, accept it, feel it, and let it go. It could stay as long as it needed to, and then it could pass on its own schedule.

When I went inward, there was a very strong reaction. There were many tears, of course, but what I really noticed was that my chest felt really tight and my breathing was short. Since I teach people about this for a living, it didn’t alarm me – just a normal body reaction under the circumstances. Just stick to the plan. So I kept breathing and relaxing into it, in my parked car in downtown Pensacola, and it soon started to pass.My chest loosened up and my breathing returned to normal.

If I had not done this, I would’ve been carrying this with me to wherever I was going next. This is how unfelt feelings build. When there’s enough built up, it has to come to the surface. That’s when you express it by snapping at someone who didn’t even do anything wrong. Or you do something worse. Or you just feel terrible. You don’t have to express and suppress anymore – you can feel it and let it go. Then those feelings that came in naturally are able to leave naturally.

Back to the car… after only a couple of minutes of releasing, I was ready to call my friend back. We shared information and then I started looking around on the internet for online obituaries. I also called or texted some other folks who might know. While doing this, the feelings would arise again. As they arose, I would just stop, check in, and let them go. Then continue the job at hand. This is how you handle emotions of any kind – you just feel them, relax into them, and let them go. It’s the opposite of what we normally do, but it’s the only thing that really works. When we resist them, they get stuck.

After close to an hour of searching, we finally found out that it was not our friend who had passed away after all. Of course we weren’t happy that somebody else had died, either, but we were definitely relieved that our friend was still alive and kicking. This brings us to the second main point besides how to handle feelings – the HUGE power of belief. Basically, there had been a thought that a certain person had died. This thought carried a huge reaction in my body, and it was never true. When I first heard it, it was 50-50 as far as I knew. Knowing what I know and not being afraid of feelings, I went ahead and “went there” in my car so that I didn’t carry all those feelings around with me. I was ready for the worst case scenario. All the while, our friend was fine.

So it’s not about what’s true or what’s real; rather, it’s about what you believe and how you see things. This is called perception. I’m always talking about feelings and thoughts on this blog, and this is a great example of how they both work. I felt the feelings first, and then I stayed calm in my head. No racing mind or voice in the head carrying on. What has to be done? Search the internet. Call people. Text people. When feelings arise, stop and feel them again. Then continue doing what you were doing. This is how you can live most most of your life, and all it takes is practice. Let me know if I can help…

Pain vs Suffering

Posted Posted in Essential Topics

This is a big one, folks – if you want peace, anyway. And it’s not very complicated. Let me first give credit to the folks over at Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). That’s where I found these particular terms, pain and suffering, for what is described below. I think they work very well. Regardless of the terms used, though, understanding the concept underneath them is always what we’re after. And like much of what I talk about here at A Clean Mind, this concept is nothing new, but ACT is where I first saw it stated in this particular way. Let’s get started…

Pain is what happens. Suffering is the story that we layer on top of what happens. Drop the story, learn how to feel, and then handle the situation as best you can. Done. Continue living. Now for a bit more detail…

Pain is a normal, built-in part of life on earth. There’s no escaping it, so it’s pointless to resist it. It’s simply a fact that “good” things and “bad” things are always around the corner. That’s how it works here. People get sick, people die, our cars break down, relationships break down, people are unkind (to say the least), there are natural disasters, we drip barbeque sauce on our white shirt, etc. This is what we mean by “pain.” These things might not be fun, but they happen and that’s not avoidable. If you base your peace on avoiding pain, then you’re screwed.

What is avoidable, though, is suffering. All it takes is practice. Suffering is the story, the commentary by the voice in the head. “I can’t believe this happened. This always happens. It happened at the worst time. Just my luck. She shouldn’t have done that. He should act differently. Damn him. I’m a failure. This sucks.” These are all examples of suffering. What’s the problem with suffering? It makes the pain worse. Two for the price of one – nice! The pain is already unpleasant, so why do this to ourselves and make it worse? Because it’s a habit, that’s all. It’s really no big deal once you start to notice it and catch it. When you bust yourself doing this, just stop. Breathe. Feel. Let go. What am I reacting to? What needs to be done? Then just do it. Why? Because that’s the best you can do.

The reason why this is a tricky habit to break is that it all happens so fast. First, something we don’t like happens. Then in only a split second, we’ve begun telling ourselves a story that makes our normal body reaction (i.e. anger, sadness, fear, resentment) worse than it already was. We feel extra bad now, so the voice in the head comments on that. Which makes us feel even worse. Which makes the voice in the head get louder and angrier. Which makes us feel worse. See the pattern? It’s a classic feedback loop. And it happens really, really fast.

Much of the work that I do with clients is about slowing things down and looking at this process under a magnifying glass. As soon as we catch ourselves in the middle of it, we stop and wake up. We bust ourselves as mentioned above. With practice, we bust it earlier and earlier, until there comes a time when we catch it right away and nip it in the bud. No more useless commentary. Something “bad” happens, and we immediately remind ourselves that that’s what happens sometimes. Sometimes a lot. There’s nothing wrong with it. This doesn’t mean that’s what we wanted to happen, but since it has happened, I’m just going to handle it as best I can. Freaking out makes thing worse, so I’m done freaking out. I’m tired of it. There’s already enough pain in life, so let’s eliminate the suffering. Why? Because we can. All it takes is practice…

Four Powerful Words… CTFO!

Posted Posted in Essential Topics, Tools & Techniques

Over the years, I’ve done lots of work in the realm of the “spiritual” or personal growth or expansion or whatever you might to call it. I’ve studied with some pretty cool teachers, both in person and from their books, audio, video, etc. All I was ever going for was peace. This all started because a little voice in me said there must be more out there than the norm that I saw. So I started looking around.

The next thing I knew, I was an energy healer, learning and practicing a modality called Pranic Healing. That was pretty cool. Then I was an Arhatic Yogi, doing intense energetic meditations and exercises. That was very cool. I still felt there was a different path for me, though, so I gave up the “energy world” and found myself in the “consciousness world,” as I came to call it. My new teachers were Eckhart Tolle, Gangaji, and Amber Terrell (a student of Gangaji’s with an amazing audiobook called Surprised By Grace). They talked about what was already perfect, eternal, changeless, and immortal. And they said that was who I am and who you are. And that there’s really only one of us despite what we see in this illusory world of separation. Whoa…

At some point around this time, I summed up all of this spiritual wisdom with a nice little acronym: CTFO. This stands for Chill The F Out. I apologize for the bad language, but that’s what popped into my head. CTFO. Maybe I was stressed in grad school or something and I needed a quick but powerful reminder to snap me out of it. CTFO popped in, and it has done wonders ever since for me and for some of my friends. And so I share it with you, in case it might help you laugh a bit and relax when you’re stressed.

Please note that this doesn’t mean you should become lazy or stop working or anything like that. It just means you have the option to have a more relaxed attitude while you’re doing whatever you do in your life. Take a breath. Loosen up. Get out of your head. Then continue what you were doing. CTFO. Enjoy!