Does mind training work? Is it worth the effort? I’m sharing a personal story here in the hopes that it might serve you in some way. Maybe you’ve wondered why spending time on mindset, habits, meditation, and a mindfulness practice could possibly be worth the effort. If so, this personal story about Mind Savvy® is for YOU.
I’ll share the personal story in a sec, but first a program announcement and then a bit of story framing via pudding.
Next up for group programs
I invite you to join us for the 28toGreat™ Program—a Food Sass® Journey into Intermittent Fasting! Program runs Apr 29 – May 26 and registration opens on Thu Apr 14th. Folks LOVE this program. Truly a game-changer, for LIFE.
If you’d like to do a serious reset before summer, you may want to do a Solo Body Sass® Cleanse leading up to 28toGreat™. This creates seven weeks of reset and rejuvenation! If you’d like to do that, be sure to register for the Cleanse by the last week of March.
So looking forward to guiding some fabulous folks back to feeling GOOD. Speaking of feeling good…
The proof is in the pudding
My work over the last 20 years—13 in my practice and the prior 7 volunteering to provide group education around the importance of whole foods—has been about “teaching a man to fish.” If you’re not familiar with this idea, it comes from an old saying:
Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
This means that I invite people to self-experiment with the clinical work and teachings I offer for whole-person wellbeing. Hearing about a food lifestyle that can support health; reading about supportive habits and mindset shifts that can reduce stress; or exercising for a week and then returning to our previous sedentary lifestyle…none of these things change our life.
Instead, change happens when we engage and experiment with our own wellbeing. We try things out, and if they improve how we feel, we iteratively develop habits and practices around them. As a result, we become more healthy, peaceful, calm and joyful. Our quality of life improves and we’re happier. Good stuff. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. (Pudding, to be clear, is not Food Sass®.)
What follows is how a mind training experiment of my own seems to be unfolding. In case it might be helpful for you, as well.
On Feb 3 at 9:05pm ET, the extreme wind/cold weather system New England was experiencing felled a 90-foot pine tree across my entire house. Big tree on small house => tree wins. Gladly, no one was home.
I’ll start by saying that I’m very clear that there are much worse things than a tree smushing my home. For starters, my kids are all healthy and happy and for that I’m grateful. I’m also grateful that I have a home at all, smushed or otherwise. Beyond that, just looking at top news stories over the last month puts the tree/house scenario into the category of a large inconvenience, versus “disaster.” Trains colliding in Greece, massive and repeated earthquake activity in Turkey/Syria, huge banks imploding…all while the war in the Ukraine drags on.
And still, our own little lives can feel hard sometimes. Not hard like all of that; but still hard, in comparison to what we’re used to with un-smushed houses and all that.
As the weeks progressed and I met with the adjuster, a few contractors and my town building commissioner, it became clear that we won’t likely be back in our home for at least a year. The adjuster said it’s the worst tree hit he’d seen in his career. The damage is extensive and includes structural damage to the bones of the house.
It’s worth noting here that this felled tree situation was concurrent with delays and disappointment with two large projects I was working on. I was in one of those spots when we feel like “everything is going wrong.”
And what’s happened, WITHIN ME, is what I find interesting:
90% of the time, I’ve felt relatively calm and unfettered.
Not fake-calm, when we’re tightly holding a lid down on our real feelings. Actual calm. It doesn’t mean I LIKE what’s happening, but I’m also clear that I want to be open to the full scope of life. Not just getting what I want and avoiding what I don’t want. I want to be open to all of life, including the messy parts. Cuz they’re pretty much guaranteed, so it seems silly to resist them.
It’s not personal.
Life has its own natural choreography, and it includes messyness. The tree falling on my house isn’t personal. I mean it *is* in a way, because its fall is profoundly affecting my life from almost every angle. But the tree was just tired and having a tough time with the weather. So down it went. It didn’t happen TO me; it just happened. Yet, because of our attachments to having things the way we like them, this kind of thing can FEEL personal. It’s not.
And here’s the deal. I can choose to either work with reality or against it. Mind training finds me, each day, in each moment I can remember, I keep recommitting to working with reality. To more fully accepting the fact of impermanence in everything. And when I find myself mentally working against reality or complaining about impermanence or making things personal, I redirect. I recommit. It’s an ongoing process, not a destination. But it’s clear to me that the mind is indeed trainable.
Mind training: Possible?
The first non-fiction book I voluntarily read was The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck. Published in 1978, I read it circa 1991 when I was 25 years old. The premise of the book is this: Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional and facing our difficulties results in a higher level of self-understanding.
It took a long time and decades of increasing study and practice before those ideas came home to roost for me. Hundreds of books, dozens of classes and retreats, and a consistent personal practice. For the first 15 years, I didn’t even understand that I was practicing or that I’d chosen a path of internal reckoning. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this:
The mind is trainable.
It takes patience, repetition, humility and courage (when we can dig ‘em up!). However, if the premise of my book Wild World, Joyful Heart is true—that the mind is either the bridge or the barrier to everything we desire—then it’s worth the effort. And as I wrote in that same book, curiosity, awareness and mindfulness are the Three Amigos that can help shepherd our journey.
ACTIVELY TRAINING THE MIND WORKS. And the Three Amigos are good friends, indeed.
Other good friends are my amazing community. Post-Timber, friends have been inviting me over for home-cooked dinners, for weekend visits away to reset, one neighbor has organized a fundraiser at his bar and another has launched a GoFundMe to help with non-insurance-covered costs. And many other amazing kindnesses have come my way. To say I’m grateful doesn’t quite seem to express how all of this feels. I’m a bit blown away and my heart is full.
As far as the rest of how I’m feeling? If I had to choose the five things that have supported me the most, both during my divorce in 2013 and thus far in Timber-world 2023, they would be:
- Accepting the impermanence of all aspects of planet Earth living (non-attachment and letting go)
- Intentionally evoking curiosity—instead of stress and fear—about whatever arises
- Looking for the lessons in anything I perceive as unwanted or messy or obnoxious
- Continually questioning the seeming solidity of my experience. In reality, experience is fleeting, unsubstantial, and wide-open with possibilities.
- Honoring emotions as important data, and then taking personal responsibility for what comes next. I decide how I react and what I focus on.
And, of course, a sense of humor. Do I do these all the time? Nope. Did I have a big ole bawl-fest about 10 days post-Timber? You bet. The size of what’s in front of me feels huge, and it keeps growing and becoming more complicated. And I miss home. However.
Mind training—what I call in my coaching work, Mind Savvy®—is exactly that. Training. Something that we continually do to “stay in shape” and continue to evolve. Just like an athlete in training. We never “get there,” we’re committed and we keep training.
As my own mind training has evolved, I’ve discovered that I can hold multiple sources of oppositional influence at the same time: angst and peacefulness, openness and guardedness, content and longing. These can coexist while I remain aware. While I choose, moment to moment, where to lean. What to focus on.
It turns out that happiness is indeed an inside job. In a word? It’s a Wild World, but we can indeed have a Joyful Heart. We can’t stop the waves, but we can continually work on how well we surf.
To your Empowered Well-Being,