– Or, The Secret of What’s Between Your Ears
Copyright © 2004 Inna Nirenburg
Editor of "Inklings: Your Guide to a You-er You"
A Personal Question
What are you thinking - right now? "I'm reading your article!"
you say. Well, take a little bit of a closer look. What's
spinning in the back of your mind? Is it that big deadline
that's looming at the end of the week? Or how you're going to
deal with your mother-in-law this weekend? Or maybe you're
worrying about your finances?
Are you even aware of the thoughts going through your head
right now? What about... now?
Some Bad News From the Thought Police
Scientists estimate that an average person will think at a rate
of roughly between 1 and 4 thoughts per second while awake.
That's well over 60,000 thoughts during a typical day! And, of
all this jabbering going on in your head, it's estimated that
you've thought over 95% of your thoughts before. So, not only
is your mind generally on a constant hamster wheel, but it's
also doing this spinning continuously, unproductively - and
The Power Between Your Ears - It's Not What You Think
Enough bad news? Ok - now here's the other side of the story.
You have within you the greatest, simplest, and most powerful
tool imaginable. It can lead you to great prosperity, joy, and
fulfillment - or it can drop you instantly into the depths of
despair and negativity.
No, I'm not talking simply about the power of thought - not even
a fraction of those thousands of stale, repeat thoughts running
through your head right now will be of much use to you. (Trust
me; nope, not even the one wondering for the tenth time whether
you turned the stove off this morning). But what is powerful is
where you put your attention within all this clatter.
Mr. Webster Says:
"Attention: Concentration of the mental powers; a close or
careful observing or listening". So how does that apply to you?
"Concentration of the mental powers" - all too often, we give
away the concentration part of our attention to things utterly
undeserving. Thoughts of worry, negative predictions, minor
irritations, and daily minutiae are hardly productive, and take
up too much room in your head.
And this leaves very little space for the second, critical,
aspect of attention: "a close or careful observing or
listening". We, as a culture, don't like to sit back and
listen. We prefer to be constantly inundated with forceful
messages which grab our attention and don't let go. We too
often forget to sit back and actually listen to the small
voice of intuition. You know, the one that already has the
answers that we're trying so hard to figure out.
Try It Now
Give it a shot. Really. Stop for a minute, and focus actively
on your thoughts - concentrate. What are you thinking? You know,
that quiet and incessant little buzz behind your eyes; that
unsettled feeling - what's behind that? Now shift your attention
to listening, see if there's a message waiting for you. Just
below the surface, what is it saying? Listen... You're now
learning to distinguish the noise of your mind from the voice
of your intuition, your inner knowing - all through the tool
You Are Not Your Thoughts
There's huge power in putting your attention actively on your
thoughts. This helps you to separate the you from the thought.
You are not your thoughts, you are having thoughts, they are
passing through your head. You are bigger than your thoughts,
and you can choose whether or not you want to give them power.
And you do this by either giving them your attention, or by
allowing them to just float on by.
Head and Heart
And it's not just thoughts that you can focus your attention
on. As cognitive psychologists and holistic healers have known
for years, emotions and thoughts are deeply intertwined. One
influences the other, and both influence your physical
biochemistry. So learning to actively focus your attention on
the thoughts and feelings you want, while letting go of those
you don't want, could be the best thing you'll ever do for
your health, your well being, and your happiness.
"Great", you may say. "But it isn't so easy to catch my thoughts
and feelings, or to do something about them. I don't even know
how I feel half of the time, and the thoughts go by so quickly!"
Fear not - here's are a few simple exercises.
Use Your Words
One way to "catch" your fleeting thoughts and feelings and to
focus your attention on them is to "use your words". Just like a
parent may tell an unruly and whining child who is about to pick
a fight to "use your words" to explain what's bothering him, so
can you gently nudge yourself to discipline. This may seem
silly, but it's remarkably powerful. Write down or speak out
loud (or into a tape recorder) exactly what the thoughts and
feelings are. Articulating them clearly gives them shape and
focus, and allows you much more freedom to act in a way that
supports your growth.
Thanks For Sharing
Now, as for how to manage the spinning and repeating thoughts,
here's a very simple and effective trick. Just like a parent
knows not to take everything their child says too seriously, you
can also learn to distinguish helpful thoughts and feelings from
destructive ones. You can simply tell your thinker - "thanks for
sharing. I will take your comments under advisement. Now, please
So how does all this relate to helping you find "what's next",
or guiding you to "a you-er you"? Very directly, actually. If
you practice putting your direct attention on the jabbering of
your mind, articulating those slippery thoughts, and consciously
and purposefully telling them "thanks for sharing!" and then
purposefully re-focusing your attention where YOU choose, you
will begin to create the space for your true inner voice to
Plant the Seeds:
Now it's your turn. Take a couple of minutes and try these
exercises. Really. Try it now. You never know - hey, what's
1. Practice noticing your thoughts. Try the exercise in the
"Try it Now" section above. Really.
2. Use your words. Get over feeling silly, and actually write
down what your thoughts are. Try speaking, try using a tape
recorder. Experiment. Notice which thoughts show up over and
over. Note your top 5 - make friends with them, and thank
them profusely for sharing. And remember - attention is
power. What thoughts are you giving your power to?
3. Choose consciously. Once you become aware of the thoughts
going through your head, you can begin to make choices. For
example: "Hm, I've been thinking a lot about how unhappy I
am in my job. Thanks for sharing. Duly noted. I think I'll
choose to focus my attention elsewhere right now, thanks."
P.S. So - what are you thinking... now?
As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, and
insights. Drop me a line at mailto:in@heyWhatsNext.com.
Back to top
Inna Nirenburg is a powerful life coach and workshop leader.
She uses her deep wisdom and intuition, as well as a concrete
actionable process, to help you answer the question "What's
Next?" in all areas of your life. See
http://www.heyWhatsNext.com for more information,
or to subscribe to her monthly newsletter,
"Inklings: Your Guide to a You-er You".
Posted: Thu Oct 21 03:25:57 EDT 2004
Help sponsor these children in need by clicking on this link: