Column: What is thought cleanse, you ask?
We hear all the time about people doing internal cleanses to rid their body of toxins, but just what is a thought cleanse? In my experience, cleaning out the mind leads to a happier, healthier life.
Minds need cleaning at least as often as houses.
That’s why I created the 21 Day Thought Cleanse last year. In the cleanse, I teach a model that was created by Brooke Castillo, founder of the Life Coach School El Dorado Hills, Calif. The whole premise is this: How we feel is created by our thoughts. This is really great news because if we want to feel differently we don’t have to go out and change the world or everyone around us, we just have to learn how to think new thoughts. We all know that we can’t control the world (even though we keep trying to), but what we think and fill our mind with is completely within our control.
First, we have to become aware of the thoughts that we are thinking and notice how they are either creating the life we want or doing the opposite. If you are focusing on the bad, and the things you don’t want or the things that are not working, that is what you will attract to you. When you focus on what you want, what makes you feel good, you will get more of that in your life.
Founder of the Zen Monastery Peace Center in Murphys, Calif., and my Zen teacher, Cheri Huber, says, “We’re making it all up anyway, we might as well make up something that we love and that makes us feel great!” We all have the ability to control our thoughts. It’s about not buying into the negative thoughts that strip us of our power and keep us stuck, confused, irritated, tight and dissatisfied, and learning step-by-step strategies to get out of those negative thought loops.
Statistics say that we think 60,000 thoughts a day. Ninety-five percent of the thoughts we think today are thoughts that we thought yesterday and the day before and the day before that. Eighty percent of those repetitive thoughts are negative thoughts. That is 45,000 negative thoughts a day. Daniel Amen, director of The Amen Clinic and New York Times best-selling author, named those automatic negative thoughts, ANTS. That’s a lot of ants crawling around loose in our heads. In the 21 Day Thought Cleanse you learn a way to track how these ANTS that are busy creating your everyday reality, and then how to rewire your brain so that these ANTS lose their influence and strength. You become aware that you are at a choice point several thousand times a day and with practice you learn to choose what you want, therefore, empowering yourself in a way you never thought was possible. One participant had this to say about her experience: “Before the 21 Day Thought Cleanse I would get lost in my stories, becoming depressed and distraught, often to the point of despair. After the cleanse and using the tools that I learned, I became aware and able to distinguish between truth (the facts) and my assumptions (stories), and then I was able to redirect my focus. My energy was no longer being drained by attention to all of my stories, assumptions and worrying. I was able to be more in the present moment, doing more of the things that I enjoy (by choice), which has led to a better and happier life for me. I am amazed by the power of my own thoughts and equally amazed that I now have tools to get myself out of that hole of despair and, even better, I now know I can do it all by myself.”
To help you further understand how the model works, here is a simple demonstration:
Our lives are full of circumstances, provable facts, which are always neutral. It is January in New Hampshire. That is a circumstance. Nobody can dispute this fact. Every circumstance triggers a thought. A thought is a sentence in our minds. Perhaps my thought about the fact that it is January in New Hampshire is, “I hate how cold it is in January.” That thought will cause me to feel a certain way because thoughts create feelings. A feeling is one word: happy, sad, mad, glad, things like that. The feeling caused by the thought, “I hate how cold it is in January,” might be annoyed. When I feel annoyed, I will act in a certain way, as opposed to how I might act if I was feeling satisfied, happy or content. Maybe I complain all the time or sulk around the house refusing to go outside. Those actions will create the results that I get in my life. Complaining and sulking around the house will probably give me a result of not enjoying myself at all. It’s not because it is January in New Hampshire that I am not enjoying myself, it’s because of the meaning (I hate winter) I am putting on the circumstance that it is January in New Hampshire. We put meaning on everything and call our meaning a fact, when it is not, and that causes us a lot of suffering. Castillo says, “None of our pain comes from what happens to us. It comes from what happens in our mind.”
Have you ever noticed how everyone has a different experience of what is going on? Say you are in a meeting and afterwards you find out that you all had different interpretations of what went on in the meeting. The circumstance was a meeting, but everyone in the room put their own spin or story on what went on in there. Once we are aware of it, we begin to notice those spins or stories everywhere in our lives.
Doing this work helps us to realize it’s not about demanding results from ourselves and then beating ourselves up when we don’t meet our own expectations. It’s about uncovering our own stories, assumptions and beliefs, and realizing that they are what is creating our results. We get a better perspective on both our lives and our minds.
People may have reservations because they think signing up to do the 21 Day Thought Cleanse will take up too much of their time. But that is not true at all. One person who expressed interest in taking the class said they would love to participate, but they don’t have 21 days to spare. They thought they would have to attend class 21 days in a row! Well, that’s not how it works. The class spans 21 days but there are only three evening classes to attend during those 21 days. When not in class, participants are encouraged to use their lives as their laboratories, so to speak, to compassionately be curious about what goes on in their minds and then bring all that information back to the class. It’s such a wonderful model, because instead of moving away from your life to go do something, you are really attending more closely to your own life for this period of time and some big shifts can happen.
For those who like to go deeper, packages of daily email support and/or private coaching are available.
The only way to know for sure what it is like is to move through any resistance, if it’s there, and just come try it out. Because it’s true, when you learn to change your story, your life changes in some miraculous ways.
Janet Archer lives in Antrim with her husband, two dogs and one cat. She has lived in the Monadnock region for close to 40 years. She is a retired Conval elementary school teacher who started her own business: Change your Story, Change Your Life: Live a Life you Love. She is in the middle of teaching her fourth Thought Cleanse class. Her next class begins March 13 in Peterborough. Archer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.janetarcher.com or 588-2201.