*This exercise helps with mindfulness, focus, calm, improved memory, improved cognition, greater presence with others which improves relationship, and can help you sleep better if you do it before bed.
Buddhists call the restless mind “monkey mind.” The Buddha said the human mind is filled with these monkeys jumping, chattering, and carrying on endlessly. We all have monkey minds with countless monkeys vying for our attention.
Quite a few of my clients report that they think all the time. They can’t turn their brains off to go to sleep, and they have trouble concentrating on one topic with so many other things on their mind. Do you experience anything like that?
Multi-tasking places a large toll on your productivity and stress levels. Earl Miller, MIT professor of neuroscience, asserts, “People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves. … For the most part, we simply can’t focus on more than one thing at a time. What we can do, is shift our focus from one thing to the next with astonishing speed.”
That switching doesn’t matter if the tasks are routine and do not require much brainpower, like folding clothes while watching a sitcom on television. On the other hand, it matters a lot if the tasks are different and do require thinking, like writing an email and participating in a conversation in a meeting. The brain can’t process two significantly different tasks into short-term memory at the same time. As a result, the information can’t get transferred to long-term memory, which means you can’t or won’t remember it.
Scattering your attention is also inefficient. Inc. magazine reports multi-tasking can cause a 40 percent drop in your productivity, take you 50 percent longer to complete a task, and introduce up to 50 percent more errors. Heavy multi-tasking can cause you to temporarily lose 15 IQ points—that’s 3 times more than the effect from smoking marijuana!
Then there is the price you pay in added stress. The brain finds complex multi-tasking to be stressful and so amps up the stress hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. Chronic multi-tasking adds a huge burden to your body’s stress load with all of the related health consequences.
So, there are a lot of benefits to be gained from practicing focused awareness.
In business, people are commonly preoccupied with multiple subjects at once. Their minds will jump like a monkey from the topic at hand and land on some other pressing topic … then on to another … and another … and finally back to their current task. Then it starts all over again. This is what happens when people can’t turn their brain off at night.
The following technique is a powerful visualization that seems to work when other approaches don’t. If you are new to using visualizations to influence your subconscious, this may seem a little strange to you. That’s normal. It always feels strange, awkward, and even a little embarrassing to try something different for the first time. Can you be okay with that?
Letting Go of Preoccupations Technique
Close your eyes and become aware of the topics your mind is preoccupied with. Select one topic to begin.
Imagine a weighty object, like a barbell, rock, or anvil that symbolically represents this topic you have been dwelling on. The size and weight of this object should be relative to the importance and “weight” this topic has had on your mind. Small matters might be imagined as a 2-pound barbell and big ones as a 50-pound rock..
Imagine this weight in your hand. Use all three senses to imagine it vividly. See the color, shape, and size of the weight. Imagine a code word that represents this topic written on the side in a bright color, like “XYZ project.” Feel the texture of the object in your hand, the temperature, and the weight as if you were actually holding it.
Now, imagine dropping it. Letting it drop into water, like dropping it off a boat, is especially effective. Feel the instantaneous release of the weight—feeling much lighter. Hear it splash into the water. See the weight drop away out of sight.
Notice the release of some of the tension you may have been holding in your body.
Continue to release each of the remaining topics one by one until your mind is clear, calm and quiet.