Take the Brain Off Cruise Control

Ah, greetings friends, and welcome to our continuing mindfulness journey.  Today I’m joined by my producer, my good friend, Mr. Mike. 

Jim:    And, Mike, do you like to take adventures?

Mike:    I love adventures.  

Jim:    Do you like to take journeys?

Mike:    Yes.  Often on the Mega Bus.

Jim:    And, here on Fishing Without Bait we’re going to continue our mindfulness journey to the present moment.

Mike:    Excellent.

Jim:    Continue our mindfulness journey to the present moment.  So, quite often we talk about time traveling and we talk about, continually on this program, the benefits of mindfulness and being in the moment, staying in the moment.  And, again, what do we always ask people, “Where are you at?”  Tell me, Mike, where are you at?

Mike:    I’m right here, right now, in this studio listening to you.  We’re having a conversation with you.

Jim:    You’re having a conversation with me right here and right now.  Not tomorrow.  Not today.  Not five (5) minutes from now.  Not five (5) minutes ahead of us as we’re having our conversation right in the present moment, are we not?

Mike:    That’s right.

Jim:    And, sometimes we take along a crafty character with us.  And, that crafty character would be our brain, Mike.  Sometimes our brain likes to be helpful.  And, sometimes it can be very much so.  However, sometimes it’s when we’re out mowing – say we’re out mowing our lawn and we have a neighbor who wants to be helpful.  However, when they start to mow our lawn they run over our flower bed.  So sometimes that’s where our brain gets away from us.  And, our brain does try to be helpful.  However, sometimes it ends us up on a not-so-very-beneficial path.  And, when we end up being mad at our brain then we end up thinking that we’re mad at ourselves.  But, are we not?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    Again, what we’re talking about here, Mike, is we’re talking about automatic thoughts that operate below the level of consciousness.  Automatic thoughts, and sometimes you’ve heard of an airplane being on auto-pilot.

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    So, quite often what we do – do you have cruise control in your car?

Mike:    Yes, I do.

Jim:    Do you ever use it?

Mike:    Yes, I do.

Jim:    So, sometimes when we’re on cruise control then we’re not operating the gas pedal.  We’re not operating the brake.  So, soon we begin to actually think that we’re not operating the car at all, and it’s on ourselves.  However, when we begin to lose control of the car, what can happen?  When we forget that we’re actually driving the car?

Mike:    You swerve.  You miss the turn.  You get in trouble.

Jim:    Yeah.  You can run off the road.  You can wreck.  You can really hurt yourself.  However, quite often with our brain, what we do is we operate in a mindless mode most of the time.  We do.  We go through our life being human doings rather than human beings.  So, one of the purposes of this mindfulness journey, Mike, is to learn how to take our brain and our lives off auto-pilot.  

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    So, sometimes what we do is we try to learn how to observe and describe and participate in our lives, right?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    And, one of the ways that we do that is being non-judgmental.  How many judgments do you think you make a day, Mike?

Mike:    A lot.  Mostly about my own work, though, as we’ve discussed on previous shows.

Jim:    Well, of course.  And, when we walk into a room, and are those, are most of the judgments complimentary?  Or positive?

Mike:    I guess not so much.

Jim:    Okay.  So most of the times we judge things, most of the times we determine them according to our standards, and most – a lot of the times we make judgments based on how we feel about it, and basically how these things feel about us, whether we’ll fit in or we won’t fit in.

Mike:    Isn’t that interesting?  So, we’re talking about making these judgments.  And, we’re talking about making them about other people, right?  How is that?  What is the temperature when you walk into a room or a coffee shop?  Are you putting people on a pedestal, like, “Oh.  Obviously, they’re doing better than me.”  Or, “Obviously I’m doing better than that person.”  It’s really interesting.  It really kind of, how’s your mind at that point if that’s the kind of thing that you’re judging, right?

Jim:    Well, of course.  We’re always trying to find our own temperature.  We’re all always trying to find our own equilibrium.  Am I doing better than this person?  Or, am I doing worse than this person?  What do I have to do to improve myself?  And, all that does is lead to self-destructive thoughts.

Mike:    Exactly.  The grass is always greener.  And, you always think that somebody is doing better than you.

Jim:    Right.  So these judgments again become automatic thoughts.  So, how do we take the brain off of cruise control?  How do we do that?

Mike:    Think about right here, right now?

Jim:    We think about being right here and right now, and participating in the moment.  And, Mike, that takes practice.  And, that takes action.  And, that takes effort.  

Mike:    It does.

Jim:    So when we recognize what’s right in front of us so we have a judgment.  I walk into this room and I see you in your t-shirt, and an automatic thought just pops into my head – I don’t care for that t-shirt.  I don’t like that design.

Mike:    I realize this is kind of a scary t-shirt I wore today, but it’s an audio podcast.

Jim:    So, that’s an automatic thought.  Did I consciously come into the room and think, “I’m going to judge Mike’s t-shirt?”  Did I come into the room thinking that I’m going to judge Mike’s t-shire?

Mike:    No.  You said, “I’m going to come in and do an awesome podcast.”

Jim:    Right.  Which is these automatic thoughts.  These are automatic thoughts.  So, how do we do that?  That means that I have to again be the observer behind that thought.  I have to ask myself to reframe that thought.

Mike:    So, is this kind of like, sometimes a thought will pop into my head, and I’ll be like, “Man, why am I even bothering thinking that?”  Is that stepping back and like, “Hey, let’s cut that out.”  Is that kind of the conversation we’re having with ourselves?

Jim:    Of course.  And, that’s when your brain is being crafty.  And, that’s when your neighbor isn’t running the lawnmower over your flower bed.  So, what’s the true purpose of mindfulness?  The purpose of mindfulness is to deal with life in the present moment as being neither good nor bad, and lead ourselves away from suffering.  

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    When we make constant judgments all day long, does that make you – really and truly, does that lead you to happiness, Mike?

Mike:    No.  It definitely drags you down.  Again, as we’ve talked about kind of your brain moving and thinking of everything.  It exhausts you as well.

Jim:    So, quite often, Mike, what we talk about is parents having unconditional love for their children.  Do we not?  And, what unconditional love means is accepting someone, being non-judgmental, and expecting nothing in return.  So, I walk into this room.  I look at your t-shirt.  I expect nothing in return.  I look at that t-shirt and accept it for exactly the way it is.  However, when I catch myself and find my mind saying, “Oh, my gosh, I don’t like that design.  Why would Mike possibly wear a t-shirt?  Doesn’t he have anything else in his wardrobe?”  I step back and reframe that thought.  Although that would be not my choice of t-shirt, Mike’s my friend.  And, I accept him for how he is.  And, I accept him for the clothes that he wears, because Mike is not the clothes that he wears.  Mike is my friend.  Mike is the pure, beautiful spirt of the creation.  

Mike:    I’m going to dress better for podcast day now.

Jim:    I agree.  Being judgmental takes a whole lot of effort.  Does it not?  

Mike:    Mm-hmm.

Jim:    All of these automatic thoughts all day long.  So, what we try to do is avoid the automatic thoughts.  And, that means being aware and participating in the moment – being aware of these thoughts.  Quite often, Mike, when I deal with people who have automatic negative thoughts that constantly, “I can’t do this.  I will fail.  No one likes me. I’m alone.  I can’t ask for help.  I’m not worthy.”  So, what I do is I take a specific sentence of an individual.  Tell me the last negative automatic thought that you had, Mike.

Mike:    It’s often the “Oh, I’m not worthy of this.”  Actually, a couple that you said there.  So, yeah, I’m not worthy of the help I’m getting in achieving my goals, maybe.

Jim:    So, again, I’m going to ask you to reframe that thought.  Reframe that for me.

Mike:    How do you mean?

Jim:    Well, when you reframe that thought, let’s reframe it in a positive way.

Mike:    Okay.

Jim:    I’m not worthy.  Let’s examine that.  I am not worthy.  What in that sentence – what in your life would cause you to be not worthy?

Mike:    Just the feeling, I don’t know.  Just a feeling that I haven’t earned it, I guess. 

Jim:    Okay.  So, if we reframe that thought, Mike would say, “I’m grateful that I’m receiving the help that I’m getting.”  

Mike:    Okay.

Jim:    I’m grateful that I’m receiving the help that I am getting.  

Mike:    Oh.  This is my turn.  I am grateful for that help that I am getting.

Jim:    Yes.  And, sometimes we have to repeat that again because those thoughts will return.  

Mike:    I’m grateful for the help that I am receiving.

Jim:    The neighbor just can’t seem to stop running the lawnmower over your flower bed.  So, eventually we get out there and we say, “I’m so happy that you chose to help me.  Thank you so much.  However, perhaps we could mow in another area?  I’m so glad you’re my friend.  I’m so glad.  I’m grateful that you are compassionate and kind and want to help me.”  So, let’s work together on this in a beneficial way and productive way for ourselves.  In our mind, remember our brain is a sneaky little character.  It’s always running – always running in the background.  And, quite often, most of our thoughts, Mike, are below the level of consciousness.

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    And, what happens is when the percolate to the surface.  Like water bubbles coming up through a lake.  And, then we deal with them.  So, let’s delve more into this mindfulness.  Let’s delve more into our brain.  Remember, we have our brain.  Then we have our mind.  Do we not?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    And, although the two are melded together, they’re definitely separate.  We have our brain and we have all these neurotransmitters flying between neurons.  And, that essence, in that ether, that creates our mind.

Mike:    And one thing we talked about, I really like the hardware of your brain versus the software that is your mind.

Jim:    And, we talked about that the last time, too.  So the software is your mind.  The hardware is your brain.  And, the brain is the case for your mind.  It’s the platform and the launching pad for your mind.  So, it’s the mind that we can deal with.  The brain is our brain.  And, again, we’re going to – on our next podcast we’re going to be continuing.  We’re just touching the surface of this non-judgmental stance.  And, my hope is that you can reframe at least two (2) or three (3) thoughts a day.  And, that would be a wonderful start.  So, most people say, “I want to change my way of thinking.”  Do, they not?  It’s like a person who says, “I want to lose a hundred and fifty (150) pounds.”  

Mike:    You can’t do it cold-turkey.

Jim:    No.  So, the next week, when you weigh yourself you’ve lost six (6) ounces.  How would some people view that, Mike?

Mike:    This isn’t working.  I quit this.  And, I’m going back to my old ways.

Jim:    What time does the Dairy Queen open?

Mike:    Exactly.  

Jim:    So, the idea is you can either view six (6) ounces as a failure or you can view six (6) ounces as a real fine start.

Mike:    Baby steps.

Jim:    Absolutely.

Mike:    Baby steps.  And, I think that’s really important.  I think in any task people look at the goal.  And, if they’re not seeing leaps and bounds toward that goal, they don’t think it’s worth the effort.

Jim:    Which is the essence of Fishing Without Bait.  

Mike:    Exactly.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint in most things that really change your life.

Jim:    It’s living life in a mindful manner without serious expectations – without definitive expectations of what I’m going to do.  “I’m going to stop all these negative thoughts today.”  You’re setting yourself up for disappointment.  You’re setting yourself up for failure.

Mike:    Which turns into bigger negative thoughts, ironically.

Jim:    Right.  So, the next day, three (3) neighbors show up and two (2) with riding lawnmowers that continually ride over your flower beds.  So, I just wanted to give everyone just some food for some thought this evening.  This afternoon, or morning – wherever and whenever you’re listening to this particular podcast.  And, the next time we’ll be delving more into the instrumentation and actual gaining some traction into the mechanics of taking a non-judgmental stance and dealing with automatic thoughts.  So, until the next time, we’ll see you in the present moment.  We’ll see you in the now.  

Please check out our website at FishingWithoutBait.com where you can listen to the show, comment on our discussions and find out where you can subscribe to our podcast.  Fishing Without Bait is a production of Namaste Holistic Counseling, P.C.