April 23, 2022

How to Recognize the Subtle Tricks the Mind Plays to Stop Us.


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Not too long ago, I was speaking with my teenage niece—who goes by the pronouns they/them—at a family birthday party, and they were considering starting yoga as a way to increase exercise to lose weight and help elevate their happiness. Considering the global pandemic, this seemed like a prudent and wise decision to me.

As an amateur yoga practitioner myself, I am in full support of this and was trying to encourage them (don’t worry, this isn’t yet another story about yoga or COVID-19, as you’ll soon see!). While we discussed the idea though, they immediately said that they had never done it before and so didn’t know where to start.

Beginning anything is often the most difficult part of a journey, so I could empathize with this uncertainty. I can say for me, personally, this single excuse has prevented me from taking action more than anything else. It’s not surprising then that this was coming up for my niece because a universal truth I’ve found is that we teach what we most need to learn ourselves.

Fear of failure keeps many of us stuck, and the attachment to perfection encourages procrastination. This is something I continue to work on each day, but at least I can say I’ve completed the hardest part: the beginning!

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~ Lao Tzu

Not being sure where to start makes sense, but I reminded my niece that I had bought them a guided DVD they could start watching right now. They said it was too intimidating to get started by themself though, even with the video, so we agreed we would go through and perform the yoga exercises together.

Once any of us are underway on any new journey, it’s beneficial to have a guide or a teacher who has been down the path to help show us the way. They can warn us of potential pitfalls and help redirect us if we’re straying too far off course. This can take multiple forms—as an in-person guide, a video, a book, and even inanimate objects like plants or animals who can teach us if we’re open to non-traditional guidance.

If we’re looking for it, guidance can take almost any form or circumstance. If we’re committed to it looking a certain way though, then we’re going to miss out on countless opportunities for growth.

In my own life, I’ve had a spiritual mentor with me for over a decade now, and I’m eternally grateful for his continued guidance. There are countless books that have also shaped my path, and I couldn’t imagine where I’d be today without them. In addition, nature has been an omnipresent teacher for me, communicating in subtle ways, often when I least expect it.

“When you know how to listen, everybody is the guru.” ~ Ram Dass

The next excuse my niece gave was that they didn’t have enough space in their house to do the exercises. They’ve got plenty of rooms where they live, but they were only thinking about the one room they have, which is basically a rec-room, but it’s cluttered with stuff. By focusing solely on that one room, however, they were missing the multiple opportunities elsewhere.

Holding onto expectations for how a situation should look will always limit us. It sometimes takes a little creativity to get outside of our set ways of thinking, but we have the choice for what we want to look for.

We can find an excuse like my niece if that’s where we focus and find a reason why a specific situation won’t work. Or if we open our mind, we can realize there are, in fact, multiple opportunities if we only look for them.

Oftentimes, I find for myself that it usually takes me feeling stuck in an old way of thinking before I’m willing to expand my mind and look for alternative solutions. A mundane example of this is from this morning when I was making my coffee. I’ve got a glass jar of ghee butter with a metallic lid that I place a measuring spoon on top of that I reuse each time to deliver a precise amount into my coffee.

The problem I had been running into was that the measuring spoon I was using would fall off the top of the lid because it was unbalanced, especially whenever there was a little bit of butter remaining on it since it weighted the spoon even further unbalanced. So in an effort to correct this, I went looking through my drawer for a different spoon and had forgotten I have a set of magnetic spoons that ended up working perfectly because the magnetic is attracted to the metallic lid. Problem solved—I just had to look in a new location!

“Nothing limits achievement like small thinking; nothing expands possibilities like unleashed imagination.” ~ William Arthur Ward

Think about when you really wanted something—would you let anything stop you?

Once we make the commitment to ourselves that we are going to do something, our mind then begins to find reasons to continue, rather than stop.

Perhaps a disastrous event might deter us, but there is a confidence when we’ve committed to following through with something. This steadfastness will keep us going when obstacles arise, which surely they will.

Anything worth doing will encounter some resistance in one form or another. Our minds will also try to convince us what we want to believe. If we focus our attention on why we should do something, as opposed to why we shouldn’t, the mind will then find an excuse to follow through instead.

Another silly example from my own life that I’m currently dealing with is that as I’m trying to edit this blog, my computer’s cursor keeps randomly turning into “insert” mode, and it won’t let me type or delete the letter I’m trying to type and puts it in the wrong spot. I could take this as a sign that I’m not meant to complete this task, or I can look for ways to continue (like copying and pasting this whole thing into a new doc without the formatting, which I just did).

So the next time we find a roadblock and start convincing ourselves that it is too much of a hurdle to jump over, consider if it’s just our mind making excuses, or if by turning our attention toward solutions, we’re able to triumph.

The means and methods of doing this are almost infinite since the mind is clever and will find solutions if that’s the priority; the important thing is that we turn our attention away from finding excuses to not do something. If we are uncertain about doing something, any excuse can stop us. If we’re committed to something, however, we’ll likely find a way to make it work.



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