A few years ago, a shaman in Honduras taught me an extremely useful technique to dissolve stress and anxiety. It’s had a pretty profound effect on my life and today I’d like to share it with you.
Like much of the healing wisdom that comes from native cultures, this teaching began with an observation about nature.
As we sat together, the curandero asked me how I felt about deer. Yes, our furry four-legged friends that frolic in the forest.
He explained that they are a mighty power animal and a great role model for us humans to learn from.
“A deer knows it’s a deer. It has no inner conflict about its past, its purpose, its needs, or its destiny. It lives in the moment and is 100% resourceful at all times, minute by minute, its senses completely keen, its focus pure and unburdened.”
Can you say that you spend most of your day this way? Or even just an hour? Some might argue this is not even possible in today’s world.
While we may not be able to live with completely clear and open minds like our furry counterparts, we CAN begin to nurture longer stretches of this purity in our lives.
How do we do this?
An Ancient Technique:
The practice below is all about noticing and preventing yourself from being derailed mentally and emotionally.
What do I mean by the word “derailed”? I’m talking about any time you allow yourself to be distracted by thoughts that aren’t serving you.
For example, you wake up and are having a beautiful morning until you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and notice something you don’t like. “Wow, I’m getting… (fill in the blank with your personal peeve about yourself – old, fat, skinny, bald, ugly, pale, stupid…).”
This is the bright shiny detour sign that beckons you to stop traveling your peaceful path and start engaging in negative self-analysis. Most of the time we don’t even notice this road sign – we just fly right off the highway into the valley of the downward spiral.
This can be a 5 to 10 minute dialogue with yourself, laden with lower thoughts, that saps your energy for an hour, and sometimes the entire day.
The mirror is just one example, but it could be a phone call, a text message, a minor inconvenience that triggers a stress response, or the product of just overthinking your life with a busy brain instead of simply being in the moment.
So many ways to get there, but the destination is the same.
As you work with them, you begin to see these mental detours for what they truly are – invisible bars of a cage imprisoning your true self.
Here is how I was taught to address these sneaky pitfalls and break the chains.
1) Pick an hour in your day. It doesn’t need to be quiet, or free of distraction. This practice is best done during your everyday life. You can be at work, with family, doing household chores, out for a hike – the only thing that matters is that you’re starting this hour in a positive and happy frame of mind.
2) The actual practice is simple. All I want you to do is proceed through life over the next 60 minutes, remaining as peaceful as you can. The only work you need to do is pay attention to your thoughts and gently note any times you find yourself slipping into negative self-talk, or getting derailed.
This derailing doesn’t need to be major for it to qualify – it can be as subtle as a 2 second judgment or brief moment of anxiety.
To be clear, this practice is not about working with the negative thought pattern whatsoever. We are simply taking inventory of what comes up in our periphery over the course of an hour of daily life. The more emotionally neutral you can be, the more information you will pick up.
The shaman gave me this bit of wisdom before I started:
“We are watching our thoughts like a child on a river bank takes note of what floats by. Curious, playful even, but unattached.”
You might want to write these negative triggers down so that they can be worked with later, but this is completely your choice.
This life habit has helped me in two key ways:
•These points of disruption as we walk through life are great entryways or portals into deeper inner work LATER.
•The simple act of observing and acknowledging your triggers with an open and neutral eye can bring healing to them in ways that your brain cannot quantify. The light of consciousness is healing in itself.
If you’re up for it I’d like to challenge you to one of these power hours of self-discovery. Anyone can do it, and the benefits to body and soul can be extraordinary.
Yes, this is work. But it’s some of the most rewarding work I know of.
Are you with me?
PS: When I first started doing this I found it was hard to pick up on the triggers themselves. I had almost programmed myself to ignore these subtleties in my reality. But once I began tracing negative emotions backward to where they sprouted, I had a huge a-ha moment. Once you notice how and when the seed is planted, you can begin to do more conscious inner gardening.