Three Simple Steps To A Calm Mind in Troubled Teens

Quick! Don't think of a pink elephant in a tutu!

So. What are you thinking about?

We've had our minds all of our lives, you'd think we'd have a little more control of them, wouldn't you?

Now here's a more serious request.

When I say "now", try closing your eyes and emptying your mind of all thoughts for about 10 seconds......... Now!

How did you do? (You! In the back, I know you didn't even try!)

But for most of us, this is one of the most difficult things we could be asked to do.

To think of nothing. To take control of our minds and stop the constant mental chatter.

Why Bother? One of my favorite teen questions.

Imagine you could not see the stars or the sky and your only way to ever get a glimpse of them was through their reflection in the water. Now imagine that the water was constantly moving. Filled with waves making the water choppy. You couldn't see very much of the sky and what you could see wouldn't mean all that much (as to what was above you).

Now, think what would happen if you could stop those waves to the point that the waters became calm, still and revealed a perfect reflection of the sky. You would then see what had been hidden for all that time. One more allegory:

Plato's cave. Imagine every one you know being chained alongside you to a wall in a cave and that this was how it had been for your entire lives. You watch the shadows projected on the wall every day from a fire behind you that you cannot see. Eventually you all begin to see those shadows as the only meaningful way to understand the form of life. Then, bam! You break free! You get out of the cave (but cannot free the others) and you go out and see the true forms of reality instead of the shadows they cast on the walls.

That is where most of us are right now. Unable to see the stars, stuck in the cave, staring at shadows.

The only way to break free is... calming the mind.

So right now maybe you imagine that I'm in a lotus position, playing the sitar and wearing garlands of flowers around my neck. Nope. I'm at my computer writing all of this down and yet..... I am at another place at the same time; (while vacuuming is going on down the hall and my dog is barking at the local cat strolling across our fence), I am in a state of calmness, open to my intuition and inspiration.

Getting there simply requires some simple techniques and the patience to do a little bit of it each day.

When I teach these basics techniques to young adults to help them find the calm beyond their chaos, three things happen to them:

1) They become less reactionary to whatever the world throws at them.

2) They start to see beyond the moment they are living in and tend to get a bigger picture of their lives.

3) They are open to taking control of and owning their own lives.

No matter how much you are convinced that your mind is incapable of slowing down and incapable of eliminating that inner chatter, I promise you that I have seen people with zero attention, 100% energy and zero belief in this process take control of their conscious minds and begin a path to self-enlightenment that comes from quieting the mind.

Most of the people I meet in my role as a life coach truly believe that they are incapable of meditation. That it is close to impossible to "think of no thing" for more than a moment.

Within 10 minutes I have them extending that time; some for 30 seconds, some for a minute and some for 5 to 10 minutes, often for the first time in their lives.

For those in the first two groups, it is an affirmation that they can control their minds. For the latter group, it is a transformative experience and for all of them, it is the beginning of a practice. As you all know, a practice does not mean doing well every time you do something but doing it none-the-less, knowing that there will be good days and bad days, the cumulative effect of which is unbelievably empowering. What do you get? I'll tell you at the end of the article (no fair peeking... unless you're a duck... peeking duck mmmmm).

Step One - Breathing:

Breathing is a fundamental technique to learn to become in command of one's emotions and thoughts no matter what is happening "out there".

Lie on a clean, comfortable floor and put one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.

Try breathing in deeply, letting the stomach hand lift up without the chest hand lifting.

Now exhale and feel the stomach hand going down.

Take slow, deep and easy breaths and do this for about 30 seconds to a minute.

You are now breathing deeply.

In a seated or lying down position, take three deep breaths in and out and while continuing this deep breathing, take an inventory of how you are doing:

Check how you are feeling.

Check how your body is feeling. Notice any tensions, discomforts or pains.

Check your emotions. What emotions are strongest.

Simply take notice of them all, free of judgment.

Now imagine that you as are exhaling, you are letting go of anything you do not need.

Any tension, nervousness, fatigue, etc.

Feel these tensions flowing out with every exhaled breath.

Breath in relaxation and breath out your tensions.

Keep doing this for about 5 minutes.

Step Two - Visualization.

Start with the breathing exercise for about five minutes. As you begin to focus on your breath, I want you to start to imagine a special place. It could be some place you have visited or one that you imagined. It can be anywhere on Earth or anywhere in the universe. See this place. Decide what things you would like to have around you in this place. A lounge chair, a comfy sofa, an intergalactic floating person-holder, whatever you wish. Now, imagine what the place looks like, feels like, if you can, imagine the smells and the sounds. This becomes your special place. You can invite people you have always wanted to say your truth to, to come visit you in this imagined place, or just be alone and enjoy the feelings of safety, peacefulness and calm. Do this for about 5 to 10 minutes.

When you are finished, take a few deep breaths, wiggle your fingers and your toes and come back to the room you began in.

Step Three - Meditation.

Start with the breathing exercise again for a few minutes. (You can add the visualization exercise as well).

Now I want to focus all of your attention to the waves of breathing. Feel your stomach expand and then sink back down towards your spine as your breath flows in and out. When your mind drifts (and it will) let yourself know that it's ok for the mind to drift and then go back to focusing on the breath going in and out. Do this for about five to ten minutes a day.

So what do you get? The ability to rise above the emotions, sounds, smells and noises that bombard us every day and to be in charge of accepting peace into your own life, moment by moment.

There is a deeper gift that will come over time, your intuition will become a stronger inner voice and you will be lead to your "hero's journey".

What do the teens get?

The effects on the teens that have used these exercises on a daily basis were dramatic. They were able to let go of always being reactionary, they found the ability to reflect on a better path for themselves came much more easily and they could see their strengths and weaknesses clearly.

Have a mindful day!

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