Mindset Training Week 2: Higher Mind
Mid-workout, fatigue drapes over me like a heavy blanket. The lazy, potato-chip-eating fat guy in my mind says: “You’re tired. Everything hurts. Why are you doing this? Stop.” I let up on my pace.
“WHAT’S LIMITING YOU?! KEEP GOING!” The voice of my coach, Clara, rings in my ears.
My momentum speeds. The negative voices of complaint stop. “What is limiting me? I get to do this. I want to do this.” I push on.
What limits you when you’re aiming for growth?
Imagine getting ready for a big race. You think you’ve planned everything out: The goal is set, you know what time to beat, and your course is mapped out with precise detail. Piece of cake, you think. The gun goes off and you launch forward! Halfway around the first loop, you trip on your own shoe and bite the dust. Knees skinned and bloody, you roll off the track and onto the turf. The message that courses through your brain is: You failed. Give up. Quit. You limp off the track, defeated. What gives? It should’ve been so easy.
As soon as you start down the path of self-improvement, your mind will play tricks on you. Remember that New Year’s resolution to change your diet that you were so committed to in December? Halfway through January, after a bad day at work, you tore open a bag of cookies and scarfed down a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. I know this because I’ve been there!
So, why do the cravings hit so hard right after you start?
It’s the nature of the carnal mind.
THE CARNAL MIND: AVOID PAIN, SEEK PLEASURE
The lower, carnal mind is the negative voice telling you to quit, to satisfy yourself now and receive pleasure. It’s the craving for the cigarette, for the ice cream you don’t need, the urge to reach for social media every time you feel bored. The carnal mind relates desire to the changing body and undulating sensations experienced through the five senses. You feel a rush when you bite into that chocolate bar, then feel depleted soon after. The sense-appeased mind likes to be comfortable, and is content with you remaining the same. Conditioned by past behavior, patterns, and stories, it does not like change. It does not like pain. Ironically, when fixated in this mindset, no pleasure is ever enough. The bite of delicious food you’re eating? The lower mind is already thinking about the next. The intimacy you’re experiencing with a partner? The mind is already thinking about how it will end. That foamy beer? One will never satisfy the carnal mind. This is how you get hooked into addictive loops. The mind is believing the external object will give you the happiness you truly crave.
When you’re operating unconsciously in this limited mindset, you can’t be present or satisfied with what is. The moments of pleasure are never experienced fully, and the moments of pain are filled with resistance and complaint. Every single temporary comfort of the carnal mind is a false promise for freedom and happiness. Like mindlessly swiping through Tinder profiles, the pleasure-seeking mind lives in a daze of half-asleep monotony, perpetually looking for what’s better. More! More! More! demands the Veruca Salt of this spoiled mind state. The urges to relinquish can be so powerful, it’s easy to feel helpless.
You must expect for this part of your mind to enter, and plan what to do with the messages. When you hear the lower mind urge you to break from your goals, recognize the misguided perceptions of its vantage point, smile in conscious awareness, and say, “I know where that path will lead, and I choose another way.” Instead of self-hating thoughts, commit to exploring the nature of the mind and emotional connections to your habits. Change takes patience, forgiveness, and lots do-overs. Commit to yourself with unrelenting persistence. No matter how many times you trip over your own feet, reset, and try again. What seems like a failure is actually part of the process of absolution.
THE HIGHER MIND: SEEK GROWTH
Training the mind is mastering the sense desires of the lower mind by interpreting input through the higher mind. Sense desire driven by the untethered, carnal mind leads to self-destructive choices. Using self-control with the wisdom-based higher mind results in the discernment to act in your best interest. Pressing pause on the initial barrage of self-gratifying thoughts is the first step. Now it’s time to activate the finer thought vibrations of the higher mind. The higher mind speaks to you with the voice of your soul’s wisdom-based intuition.
The higher mind is the voice of your inner coach. It comes from the unchanging, elevated plane of your soul or spirit. It’s the voice that tells you to get up after you fall, reminding you to stay steadfast on your path to self-improvement. It is always with you, but does not lure you with the same stimulatory power as the lower mind. The lower mind speaks in a loud, insistent voice. You want this now! The higher mind is subtle. However, each time you heed the promptings of your higher mind, the voice gets clearer and stronger. Have you ever accomplished a weight loss or CrossFit® goal? I’m sure it took a lot of training and effort and many moments of discomfort to cross the finish line. You used your willpower to say no to instant gratification or anything that would prevent you from success. You are your steady higher mind, not the fluctuating lower mind: the parent, not the untamed wild child.
As I was slowing down in my workout, my coach reminded me of what I really wanted. I want to compete; I want to be my best, and I want to win. We don’t always have a human coach to yell in our ear. Our higher mind is our coach. The will of the responsive, higher mind can overpower the wants of the emotional, reactive brain if it is strong enough. Set a resolve to listen to this voice with a laser focus on what you truly want. This is an important key to success in aiming your trajectory toward your goal. So, what do you want and how bad do you want it?
RESPOND OR REACT?
To understand why the mind defaults to the reactive lower mind in times of stress, it helps to understand the branches of your nervous system that kick in automatically to maintain equilibrium. The sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PNS) nervous systems are complementary yin and yang functions: In stressful situations, the mind is catapulted into the SNS mode and you have an unconscious reaction: the classic fight, flee, or freeze. The PNS, on the other hand, is responsible for rest, digestion, and healing. Most active when you’re sleeping, after moments of stress it takes over and shifts you from the emotional, reactive brain into the reasoning, responding brain.
Have you ever noticed yourself take a deep breath after a heightened moment of fear or anxiety? Deep breathing activates the PNS, and while normally automatic, you can actually induce it through intentional breathing. The diaphragm, the muscle you engage to inhale deeply, is innervated by the 10th cranial nerve, or Vagus nerve, which prompts the PNS to downregulate your body into rest. How long does it take to shift from panic to calm? It depends on how you’ve trained the brain, if at all. You initiated your training in meditation by observing the mind and concentrating in the direction of the reasoning part of the brain.
What do you crave after a stressful day? When your sympathetic, unconscious brain is in charge, what does it want? A cookie, sex, a glass of wine, a bag of chips? Our emotional, reactive brain makes decisions in the moment based on conditioning, and perpetuates limiting habits. To begin to break these habits, you’ll reset your mind by initiating the PNS. Before your day even begins, set your intention through your meditative breathing toward a more conscious way of thinking.
When you become the observer of your own mind, you skip the self-punishment for caving to the impulsive desire and investigate why the mind craves what it craves. The desire for comfort from a sensory stimulus is your body trying to return to a state of balance. Each time you replace the cookie with a different mechanism of relief, you’re writing a new pattern into your subconscious. The higher, responsive mind will become stronger and stronger. Eventually, the glass of wine will be acknowledged for its temporary relief and overridden by a healthier habit, like going to the gym and breathing heavily with a set of dumbbells.
FIVE STEPS TO OVERCOME CRAVINGS
To build discipline against grabbing the comfort objects you’ve been programmed to reach for in times of stress, you’ll need to overcome cravings. Cravings are the unwanted desires of the lower, sensory mind, the habits you want to quit that you remain attached to. The object of attachment will never be enough because it can’t give you your soul’s desire of eternal freedom and happiness. Nothing impermanent is real happiness. Nothing outside of you will ever be enough. Desire based sensory vibrations are powerfully convincing. They will hijack your mind and take control of decision making if there is no counter force. To rewrite the association between the object and happiness, you must convince the mind that the object is only a temporary fix and is not what we really want, then transmute lower vibrations of desire with higher vibrations of Love.
When the urge kicks in, follow these five steps to overcome cravings.
I’ll use an example from a time when I overcame a habit of stopping at the store after work for cookies and eating them before bed. Follow along with your TMHH Workbook pages for Chapter 2.
Notice the urge and the sensation. What is it that your comfort-seeking mind wants? This is your object of desire and the vibration motivating you to act on that desire.
Example: The urge is for chocolate chip cookies. The sensation is an overpowering desire in my stomach to satisfy the craving.
Identify the emotion you’re feeling. Is there a feeling of discomfort that you don’t want to feel? This is the emotion you’re avoiding with your comfort object.
Example: After a long day of working with clients, I feel depleted and exhausted.
Visualize having whatever your comfort object is. What feeling does it bring in? This is the craving of your soul for a permanent sense of bliss.
Example: The feeling of eating the cookies brings relief, happiness, and love.
TRANSMUTE LOWER VIBRATIONS
Use higher vibrations of Unconditional Love to replace the lower vibrations created by the object of desire. Create a statement around the feeling your comfort object brings in. Speak to yourself as if you already have what you want. Take the perspective of the observer. Tell yourself what you need to hear. Call the feeling up within yourself. In doing this you are transmuting the lower desires of the carnal mind with the higher desires that satisfy your soul. Take 10 deep breaths while repeating your statement.
Example: I awaken happiness and love within every cell of my being. Unconditional Love replaces my desire for cookies. I am happy for a successful day. I love myself. I feel relieved when I rest.
Decide on a growth-supporting object or activity to satisfy your craving. Have a plan in place, and remind yourself of the commitments you’ve made. Knowing your reason for transformation will bring focus to what you want most over what the lower mind wants now. Tell yourself that the object will not bring you the peace and happiness you’re seeking, and you need to go without it to train the mind to fulfill its need for comfort elsewhere. To grow, you must do difficult things. You can do difficult things!
Example: I’ve had a successful day and cared for so many people. Now I need to care for myself. I can do this by going home and getting a good night’s sleep. I’ve committed to a healthy diet. I don’t really want cookies; I want comfort and sleep. The sugar will be a temporary fix and prevent me from getting the rest that I need.
Now that you have addressed the two voices in your head, how do you strengthen the willpower of your intuitive higher mind? By sitting in the silence. Meditation trains the mind to the elevated frequency of Unconditional Love, which turns up the volume of the intuitive higher mind. It’s how I have erased negative habits and initiated positive behaviors. Connection to my highest Self provided the grace I needed to overcome addictive habits that once held control over the mind.
ON-CUSHION: TWO-MINUTE MEDITATION
For Chapter 2, increase your meditation to two minutes. Always practice your meditation first thing in the morning and make it the last thing you do before retiring to bed. Each time before starting, review your values and “why” for growth from chapter 2 of your TMHH Workbook.
While in meditation, watch the mind, continuing to be the non-judging observer explained in Chapter 1. When you notice the mind wandering, repeat your values, focus on the backs of the eyelids, and notice sensations of the breath.
- Read your values and value components. Check off completed components in the evening. This was the exercise from chapter 1 of your TMHH Workbook.
- Sit on a cushion with your legs crossed.
- Align the vertebrae of the spine by sitting up tall and stacking your shoulders over your hips and your ears over your shoulders.
- Start a timer for two minutes.
- Rest your hands on your knees or in your lap.
- Close your eyes and focus the gaze toward the backs of the eyelids.
- Listen for the heartbeat.
- Inhale: Repeat silently to yourself, “Love.”
- Exhale: Repeat silently to yourself, “Love.”
- Continue until the timer goes off.
Notice the feeling of peace after meditation practice. This is Love awakening from within. Affirm I am worthy of love.
OFF-CUSHION: INVESTIGATE THE MIND
When changing your habits, you will be tempted with past behavior. This will give you plenty of practice working through the five steps to overcome cravings during your day. Investigate the voices of the higher and lower mind. Which voice are you listening to? Ask yourself: “Where will these thoughts, words, or actions lead me?” and “Is this in alignment with my values?”
Every choice leads you down a specific path. The carnal mind tends to be unconscious and reactive, leading you to instantaneous gratification but not long-term satisfaction. The higher mind is conscious and responsive, and gives you longer lasting peace and calm. Notice the difference with your own experiences.
Remember to refrain from self-judgment. Nothing is good or bad. It’s simply something you don’t want to do anymore.
Complete introspection questions and Chapter 2 exercise from your TMHH Workbook.
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