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  • Jerome Michael McLaughlin

Eyes Wide Shut

Every day a seemingly unlimited number of demands are being made upon our time. We are under constant bombardment by family, well-intentioned friends, experts, gurus, coaches, teachers, advisors, and colleagues to set aside time each day to exercise, eat right, give thanks, get enough sleep, invest wisely, hydrate, read more, plan for retirement, find your life’s purpose, volunteer, meditate…, etc.


It can be overwhelming.


But there is nothing better you can do for yourself each day than to…


STOP.

CLOSE your eyes.

CALM your mind.


It only takes a few minutes. Maybe even just ONE.

Wherever you are at this moment, try it. Get comfortable. Let your body relax. Close your eyes and try to keep them shut for ONE minute. (It’s harder than it sounds.)


Take a few deep breaths. Then do a quick scan from head to toe. This is a conscious effort that directly addresses your entire body to release any tension or ease any muscle tightness typically held in the shoulders, thighs, or neck.


Once complete, don’t try to think. Just let the mind rip. Let it go where it wants.


You might find that your mind reflexively resists. It’s not accustomed to being the focus of attention. It prefers to be a bit more in the background - subtly but subconsciously in control.


When your eyes are shut, your mind will seek something to “see”. It will generate a flurry of random vignettes as it tries to fill the void and sort itself out trying to comply with this uncomfortable request to throttle down and go still.


But, just let the mind go. Let it wander where it will.


Don’t try to usher it in any one direction or force it to think about anything in particular. Let ideas and thoughts come and go without resistance. Just breathe deeply and deliberately and enjoy the wild unpredictable magic produced by an exquisite and feral mind.


After a few moments of uncontrolled thought, you might consider consciously running through everything for which you are grateful. And I mean EVERYTHING – your own breathing, the constant beating of your heart, delicious food, clean water, a warm home, healthy kids, wonderful friends, a loving but endlessly frustrating family, peace, love, moments of pure serenity, a few dollars in your pocket, a working car, good neighbors, a happy dog, the rising of the sun, the promise of another day…everything you can imagine.


This active sequence shifts the manner of the mind toward the positive and opens a channel that can focus on the good.


It is important to remember however, that your mind cannot achieve a sense of complete peace during this limited sequence. But you will begin to feel it unwind as the internal turbulence subsides and the erratic currents of the mind return to a more relaxed state of calm.


Put a reminder (or perhaps several) on your calendar each day to simply close your eyes for ONE minute. Or maybe set aside some time every morning after coffee to sit, close your eyes, and just chill. These daily minutes will grow as you get into a groove. But don’t set a timer. This adds too much pressure on yourself and forces you to try to achieve something specific in a limited frame of time.


ONE quiet minute in the middle of the day resets the mind’s meter and clears out all the accumulated clutter. You will find the rest of the day slows down. Life becomes easier to manage. Things and events become more perceptible and real. There is more space to absorb and decisions arrive more easily.


And most importantly,…


While in the midst of this calm, try to LISTEN. Not to the world around you, but to the subtle messages being generated by your untethered mind. Processing visual input can be upwards of 70% of the brain’s daily activity. Visual overabundance clutters the channel to a conscious mind and builds an endless series of roadblocks to your own self-understanding .


Your mind has something to say, but your eyes keep getting in the way.


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