When the ego is trapped in the head, the mind is not cool. Circular thinking, overthinking, obsessive thinking, worrying, and ruminating are all symptoms of mindhotness.
Being a contemplative person who has been given the partial gift of a rich inner mental life, I have often found myself trapped in my head, unable to get out when I needed to.
Although I could have accepted this as part of my character, I never did. Not because I was unwilling to accept my nature, but because being in my head felt like a limitation of my freedom. And I am absolutely unwilling to accept anything that limits my natural freedom.
Thus, to grow freer, to have more freedom, I had to teach myself how to get out of my head at will. And not just for freedom’s sake. Also for the sake of taking more risks, giving less fucks, getting more done, being better with women, and boldly doing my True Will without getting distracted by my own mind. Being better at leaving my head helped me tremendously to get more joy and satisfaction out of my life.
While I am certainly not a master at it yet, I have greatly improved my skills to stop overthinking and to quickly get out of my head by practicing this 2-step method:
1. Metacognitive awareness
In the first step, I become aware of my thinking. Yes, paradoxically, I think about my thinking in order to think less. The key here is that I radically accept whatever is happening in my mind at the moment. I become aware of my overthinking, I become aware of my cerebral captivity, and I do not seek to escape, control, or suppress my thoughts.
Most people get even more in their heads when their metacognition sets in and they become aware of their unyielding thoughts. They stress out about it (“Fuck, I’m all in my head right now!”), judge themselves (“I shouldn’t be.”), and want to control it (“How do I get out?!”), not realizing that they are only making it worse and that they are evoking all kinds of anxieties.
Hence the importance of non-judgmental awareness: I just accept whatever thoughts there are in my mind. I simply watch them, stay at the metacognitive level, and maybe try to see the humor in it. I like to call my mind “silly,” without judging it, merely as an act of inner laughter. While I am laughing at myself, I am not in danger of being thrown off the metacognitive level down into the frantic stream of mid-level consciousness.
Once I am steadily aware and accepting of being trapped in my head, I am actually no longer held captive. Rather, with metacognitive awareness, I am now “above” my head. Yet although it sure is nice to be in this very mindful state, this is not enough if my goal is to take action. Since mindcoolness is mindfulness plus Will, I also have to awaken my Will in order to do what I want with a cool mind. But how can I awaken my Will?
2. Body awareness
In the second step, I connect with my body, the seat and actuator of my Will. I become aware of my bodily presence. By grounding myself in my body, I can move with my Will from above my head out into the world.
Personally, I have found that the easiest way to ground myself in my body is by way of my breath. I just focus on my breathing and bam!—I am right here in my body, right here in the now, ready for vigorous action. That is all.
Does this really work?
As I am writing down this 2-step method to get out of your head, even I find it almost hard to believe that this will actually work in a practical life situation. Who has the time to do all this awareness traveling, particularly when a stressful situation demands instant action?
I know from numerous personal experiences that it does work very effectively and that it can be done fast (after all, both metacognitive and body awareness are processes in the nervous system, so my method need not take longer than it takes for some action potentials to travel). However, I also know that it takes a lot of practice. And with “a lot” I do mean a lot, and daily.
I even experienced how much easier it is for me to quickly get out of my head today than it was just a week ago. This is simply because I have been investing more time in meditation lately. Last week, I started the MBSR Mindfulness Challenge, and an increased ability to stop overthinking, worrying, and ruminating has already emerged as a wonderful effect.
My daily meditation practice improves both steps, metacognitive awareness and bodily awareness, which makes it a lot easier for me to get out of my head at will and thus to live more consistently in a state of mindcoolness.
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