Matter Over Mind

Many months ago when I began thinking about how I wanted my professional life to change, a wise acquaintance asked me to describe my perfect day to him. “Quiet mornings” was the first thing out of my mouth.

I dreamed of waking up without an alarm, padding to the kitchen for green tea and a morning of writing, exercise, sunlight, thinking, and wondering. No email, no phone calls, no screens, no internet for hours.

Many people say they have trouble sleeping or getting to sleep because their minds race with thoughts. Me, I’m a champion sleeper – my head hits the pillow and I’m sound asleep until morning. But the mornings … oh, man, the mornings.

The moment I wake up, my mind floods with thoughts about things I need to do, things I don’t want to forget, people I need to talk to, etc. etc. I used to start every day by serving these thoughts. I’d open my iPhone to create reminders, schedule things in my calendar, return emails (sometimes from bed), and on and on. One thought led to another and soon I’d be looking up a word, finding a reference, checking messages. Then I’d become lost in the labyrinth of google, YouTube, and social media.

Soon enough, the morning was gone, my head was still spinning, and a sense of panic followed me through the day, shaping my decisions and interactions.

To change my pattern of behaviour, I decided that I would not touch my smartphone, computer, or any technology for the first three hours of my day. But what to do with all those racing thoughts? I could write them down to remember them, but they’d still be making noise in my mind. So instead I use a technique learned from mediation: I let the thoughts come, observe them with interest and watch them go by like traffic.

Sitting in the “observer” seat and watching these thoughts pass by on the autobahn of my morning-brain is interesting. This is what I’ve learned from watching:

  1. Every “car” that passes by in my mind represents some anxiety. Something I might forget to do, someone I might forget to follow up with, whole events or projects that I might fail at, balls I might drop, things that might come apart at the seams if I don’t tend to them immediately.
  2. The thoughts are distorted; the smallest, least important things are falsely magnified.
  3. 98% of the thoughts do not need to be dealt with immediately. Most are about things happening weeks in the future, or which can be dealt with anytime.
  4. The thoughts I let pass always come back to me when they’re needed.
  5. If it’s truly important, someone will follow up with me about it.

Through my new quiet mornings ritual, I’m able to clear out the noise and find me, the real Maria, to enter, engage, and give to the world. I’m learning to trust myself.

What does your perfect day look like?

How do you imagine your perfect day unfolding? Write it down and be specific.

Read what you wrote and choose one detail that you have control over now. Do one thing to start making it a reality today.

Progressive Tense Cards (1)

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