As many tattooed and phenomenal people say, “once you get your first tattoo, you’ll want more.” True to sentiment, a year after getting my 4th, I’m finding myself antsy for some new ink. I’ve got a couple ideas, but I’m really wanting a small behind-the-ear symbol and I was running ideas past my husband when he blurted out, “You should get a lightswitch!” To which I replied, “Oh, that’d be awesome, especially if it worked!”
I can’t count the number of gifted kids, teens, and adults I’ve seen who’ve asked me for the secret to turn off their brains. For many years I wished, prayed, dreamed to slow the runaway train of my brain down, just a bit. Ignorance, indeed, looked blissful.
And yet, we’re born the way we are born. Some of us with brains that can compartmentalize and focus, some of us with brains that have a bazillion and one thoughts ramming around between the sides of our skulls at ridiculous and ceaseless rates.
And sometimes these bazillion and one thoughts are amazing. They help us understand things uniquely. They help us make connections and abstractions and generalizations in ways we wouldn’t otherwise be able to. They help us think new things and get excited for new ideas.
But, sometimes, these bazillion and one thoughts are scattered, overwhelming, unfocused, anxiety-producing, internally judgmental.
What to do? What to do when you have one of these amazing and awful brains?
No – I don’t think a lightswitch tattoo behind your ear will do it, but I do think the concept is a helpful one. Nothing is all good or all bad. Sometimes its appropriate and fun to dive into the trenches of our cavernous minds. Sometimes its terrifying, depressing, and incapacitating. We need to develop our own mental switches. Our own ways to modulate our thoughts. Build our own internal switch that can intentionally plow full speed ahead or slow our roll.
The most effective way I’ve learned to build this switch is mindfulness. Paying attention to the moment without judgment. Something that most of us gifted people are really not so great at. Developing a mindset of mindful living was extraordinarily challenging. I remember sitting in a meditation group and feeling so antsy because paying attention to my breathing was just so damn boring and my brain just didn’t want to play along.
Here’s a secret: no one right way to practice mindfulness exists. I’ve learned that at this point in my life, sitting for 15 minutes and focusing on my breathing is simply not conducive nor practical. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t practice mindfulness.
I practice mindfulness as I pay attention to the feeling of the computer keys under my fingers as I’m typing this article.
I practice mindfulness as I sit without music on in the middle of a carwash and simply pay attention to the sounds, smells, sights. PS – the tri-color foam carwashes are the best thing ever . . . I always feel like I’m mindfully inside an easter egg.
I practice mindfulness as I hold a warm cup of coffee and notice the feeling against my palm.
I practice mindfulness by being mindful that I haven’t practiced mindfulness. Yeah. Don’t think about that one too much or you’ll definitely spiral off into a mental crevasse.
Intentionality. Purposefulness. Awareness. Acceptance. This is mindfulness.
Being aware that your brain thinks mindfulness is a fad-like trend. Being aware that your gut tells you you won’t ever be able to pay attention. Being aware that you are judging yourself for judging yourself. Mindfulness. Mindfulness. Mindfulness. Great practice!
How to start? Be aware. The more you are aware, the more you’ll live with intention, the more you’ll build your imaginary brain switch.
Or, just give me a couple of weeks and I’ll let you know if the lightswitch tattoo behind my ear actually works.