When we stop our thoughts, we stop the world. When we stop the world we experience peace and mental clarity.
According to the research of Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University, a human being has approximately 60,000 thoughts per day—and 90% of these are repetitive!
90% repetitive. Wow. Wow. Wow.
All that mental noise… if even 10% of it were stopped, what could you create, understand, see, more clearly?
Let’s find out.
We have repetitive thoughts because we haven’t trained our minds to be still. When we do we’ll see results quickly, and when you stop your thoughts you will find all of the answers you seek.
Here are some practices I’ve shared with countless executives over the past three decades. To date, one of them has resonated with every person I’ve met. If you are the exception, let me know, and I’ll offer more practices.
All of these practices are helpful for insomnia too. Simply do them in bed, instead of staring at the ceiling, as you are lying awake.
Turn off all phones/noise makers. Ensure your family/colleagues/etc. cannot disturb you. Sit up straight, whether in a chair or cross-legged. You may want to set a timer for 5 minutes. If you simply do silence practice daily for only 5 minutes you will see and feel a difference in mere days.
Practice #1: News Feed
Imagine a news feed across the bottom of a TV screen. There’s a bit of news, then some white space, then more news, and so on. Your thoughts are like the news. There’s always more! Now consider the white space between the thoughts. In Japanese, the word ma is loosely translated to mean pause–the pause between notes, the pause between breaths, the pause between sentences, the pause between thoughts.
Close your eyes. Place your inner focus on the constant stream of thoughts scrolling across the TV of your mind. See the scrolling thoughts floating in space or across a TV screen, whatever image works for you.
Don’t pay attention to the thoughts in detail. Let them scroll by, do not cling to them or reject them. Now focus on the space between the thoughts, the ma, the pause. As you focus on the white space between the thoughts you’ll find it getting wider, longer, bigger. In time you’ll see mostly emptiness, with few if any thoughts.
Focusing on ma, pause, emptiness, is a nice practice during the day too. Stop and notice open space as conversations pause, as music pauses. We are surrounded by pauses. That’s where some of the best stuff is. We often fill our minds and schedules out of fear of emptiness. Yet emptiness is where true peace and connectedness and happiness and love can always be found.
Practice #2: Light Shower
Close your eyes. See yourself with your inner vision. You’re sitting exactly where you are, dressed as you are. You are watching yourself. Move your focus to the top of your head. See a shower of white light pouring down over your head, covering your body gradually. Keep watching it pour over you as it covers you entirely, covers your outfit, your fingers, your face, your shoes or toes. It covers your front and back sides.
You can no longer distinguish your features, you simply see an image of you made of white light. This is the light of the Divine, the Universe, whatever term or energy resonates with you. This light is always available to you, all you need to do is remember to tune in to the light shower.
When thoughts arise, let them pass, do not cling to them or reject them. Simply focus on the light shower covering you completely. Now see it soak into every cell of your body.
This is a terrific technique to do midday if you feel tired or upset.
Practice #3: Heart Opening
Say “me” and touch your chest. If you do this a few times you’ll notice you always touch the same area. This is the position of your spiritual heart, or your heart center (or chakra).
Close your eyes. Place your inner focus on your heart center. See a rose bud there, choose whatever color you like. Now see the petals slowly unfolding in your heart center. This rose bud has an infinite amount of petals. See them unfolding as the rose gets bigger and bigger, filling up your chest. Keep focusing on the rose unfolding.
When thoughts arise, let them pass, do not cling to them or reject them. Simply focus on the rose unfolding.
Practice #4: Brain Dump
Back in the mainframe computing days a “core dump” was when the memory and all buffers were “dumped” or emptied. The result was pages and pages of gibberish as the buffers were flushed.
Doing a “core dump” of your mind can be helpful when you have a constant swirl of thoughts. Here’s how to do it:
- Get in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Turn off phones/etc. Have a piece of paper and pen ready.
- Light a candle and ask for the highest good for yourself and all beings.
- Set a timer for 20 minutes.
- Now start writing about any issue you are obsessing about, want to clear from your mind, want to understand or be free from, have a question about. Just write, unedited and unpunctuated. When the sheet is full, turn it over, then on upside down, on its side, etc. You will not be reading this later, so there’s no point in using more than 1 sheet of paper. The only purpose is to keep writing until the timer sounds.
- When the time is up, either burn the paper or tear it up and flush it down the toilet. Wash your hands and change your physiology (jump up and down for a moment, roll shoulders, etc.).
Practice #5: Watch Kung Fu Panda 2
Seriously, sometimes you just need a movie to learn about the value of inner peace. Watch this one. It’s fun, colorful, and teaches the importance of inner peace!
Every highly accomplished leader I know learns to stop the world and to stop their thoughts, on command. This is one of the best ways to make key decisions, to determine if a competitive action is truly a threat, to see future products, to assess the current state of a person who is struggling.
How do you stop the world?