Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Empty Your Mind

(This blog was originally posted on August 19, 2014)

Photo courtesy of Sara Fogan

                When I was an editor at Black Belt® magazine, I often came across the following quote in which martial artists were urged to practice mushin no shin or “mind of no mind” during combat or competition. Basically, this term philosophy urges you to empty your mind and turn off your emotions so you can think and perceive what’s going on around you. I had an opportunity to practice this philosophy while I hung out with Galahad this afternoon. 

                The time I spent with my horse was not in combat but in a kind of moving meditation as I groomed him. Once I had him secured in the cross-ties, I turned all of my attention to making him feel relaxed while I gently curried away shedding hairs and dirt. He did a lot of sighing and fluttered his nostrils a few times, so I am pretty sure he was beyond comfortable and probably a little blissed out during his mega-grooming session. (My trainer has commented several times that my horse is a bit hedonistic.) 

Unlike complete Galahad, relaxation has never been easy for me; it is a rare day that I am not doing two or three things at one time. Even spending quiet time at the barn is not an inherently relaxing activity. For example, I always need to know where my feet and hands are to avoid being accidentally stepped on or nibbled when I give Galahad a treat. I have to be careful not to let my horse walk directly behind me when I lead him or he could run right over me if something spooked him and he bolted forward. When I ride, I must use various parts of my body to ensure that I communicate exactly what I want my horse to do and he understands what I am asking for. In addition, my entire body must be soft and relaxed while I remain aware of my surroundings and alert to anything that could spook my horse, including changes in my body that indicate I’m not focused on what I’m doing.

Of course, the reason why I sometimes have so much trouble quieting my mind and directing my focus is, multi-tasking is my go-to behavior. It is my known. Even though I was physically relaxed while I groomed my horse—the repetitive motions of currying and brushing are actually hypnotizing, pun intended—my mind was anything but. Random thoughts kept popping into my head: What should I blog about today? Has so-and-so received my e-mail? I have to get ready for that meeting tomorrow, etc. Whenever my thoughts drifted away from what I was doing with Galahad, he would politely by pointedly change his posture as if to remind me to pay attention to what I was doing. After all, this was his time to be with me and get fussed over.

Spending time with my horse is my favorite time of day and my absolute favorite thing to do, but I sometimes have trouble completely turning off the rest of the world even when I’m with him. Today was one of those days. I know I shouldn’t have to work so hard at relaxing but, let’s face it: sometimes tuning out is really hard work. My conscious mind knows that it should not be more stressful to relax and take time to decompress from the day than it is for me to multi-task various responsibilities I must fulfill and projects to complete during the day. My subconscious mind knows otherwise: Multi-tasking is my default, go-to behavior. It is a subconscious known, an established behavior, a mental script. Furthermore, according to John Kappas, Ph.D.’s Theory of Mind, I reinforce that behavior every day, when I am working (e.g., preparing for a session, working and following up with clients after their appointment and taking continuing education courses). Then I go out to the barn and ride/hang out with my horse, where I typically do several things at the barn just to stay safe. (As much as I love and trust Galahad, I know that I am physically no match against his 900-pound might if I ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.)

Well, I have been working very diligently to rewrite that old subconscious mental script that says I have to multi-task every minute of my day. I’m pleased to say that after a few false starts this afternoon I was finally able to get into a groove with Galahad when I was able to tune out that extra chatter in my head for longer and longer periods of time. When I caught myself thinking about something that didn’t have to do with him, I simply re-directed my attention back on Galahad where it belonged. By the end of our afternoon together, the image and sound of him contentedly nibbling on grass and the earthy smells around me were the only thoughts on my mind.

Mind of no mind.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.
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