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Where Energy Flows

December 28, 2017

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There’s a Tai Chi martial art saying, “Chi follows intention”. Or chi, meaning energy, flows where the mind goes.

chi framed

Directing chi is important to mastery of any martial art. Because the mind and the body are inextricably linked, directing our chi is also essential to mastering our thoughts. Our health, both mental and physical, depend on it.

So, let’s say that if you place your attention largely on what’s wrong with your life – your fears, worries, regrets and doubts — you deplete the inner resources or energy required to create a more fulfilling present as well as working toward future goals.

You could even say that focusing on the negative simply produces more negativity.  Let’s take mood as a for instance. While it’s true that some of our biology does work against us in the negativity department – our brains evolved to have a negativity bias to help us survive on the African plains — the fact remains that the more negative our thinking, the more negativity we produce.

It becomes a cycle that’s difficult, but not impossible, to extract ourselves from. It does, however, take some effort and some strategies to buck the trend. What’s required is to deliberately redirect our focus toward the positive. Consider these:

Mindfulness Practices

Mindfulness practices, like meditation, breath work and yoga, help us to stay in the moment. Staying in the moment helps to produce inner calm, which is more conducive to creativity or intuitively-driven action.  Mindfulness practices get us out of circular thinking, which is self-defeating.

Planned Distractions

While it is important to acknowledge our feelings, we don’t need to get lost in them either. So, learning to turning our thoughts and feelings to the positive is helpful.  For instance, we might focus our thoughts on completing enjoyable or even necessary projects. Or engage in creative activities that transport us into thought-free space.

Interrogating the Truthfulness of Our Thoughts and Feelings

Not everything we think and feel is true. So, when negative thoughts and associated feelings do come up, we can interrogate the truthfulness of them. For example, after even a minor disappointment, we might engage in repetitive thinking about our uselessness. Thoughts of uselessness, constantly replayed, increase our stress and affect our mood. And worse, we begin to accept these thoughts as true. That’s when the rational mind can usefully be employed in interrogating the truth of these thoughts. We might ask: “What is the evidence for this belief?” And, “What else might be true?”.

Re-framing Negative to Positive

By seeking and then acknowledging the deeper truth about a thought or feeling that is disturbing our peace of mind, it will be easier to arrive at a balanced view of a situation or person. Or even of ourselves.  For example, in the case of a minor disappointment and subsequent self-judgment of uselessness, we could find a helpful re-frame: “This is only a minor setback. I am resourceful enough to find a way through this as I have done many other times.”. This is the deeper, wiser part of us helping us to make empowered meaning of the situation. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

So, in effect, we are disrupting the pattern of negative thought by turning our thoughts, and hence our chi, to that which benefits our lives.

“Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded.” Buddha