About this Course
I want to live in a world where we all love ourselves, not in an abstract, conceptual way, but in an embodied, pragmatic, feet-on-the-ground, empowered way. To me, self-love feels like an inner peacefulness, an acceptance of who I am, what I want, and what I’m powerless over. This last part is critical, because when we don’t know what we’re powerless over, we spend an immense amount of energy trying to do something that isn’t in our control.
After all, if we had the power to change that thing, whatever it is, it would be different by now.
It’s immensely restful to accept the unacceptable, and to redirect our energy toward self-care and our human homework. When we accept our powerlessness, we stop trying to change things that we don’t have the power to change, and instead of draining our battery, we start to recharge. This energy, when stored and directed inward, becomes an internal resource for the things we can do. We might not even see what we can do until we’ve stored up that energy.
This is when “accepting the unacceptable” gets a little magical.
When we stop spending energy trying to change our powerlessness, when we store that energy and invest in ourselves, we sometimes discover that our exhaustion was keeping us from seeing a path forward that liberates us from our powerlessness. It can seem like we were the problem, but that’s not true. Our attempt to have power over our powerlessness was the problem, and the solution is incredibly counter-intuitive. The breakthrough comes when we wait and replenish instead of trying to do the impossible.
Suddenly, something we can do emerges from our exhaustion and feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness.
I’m saddened when I hear from people who feel heartbroken over their many failed attempts to make changes in their lives. We are under so much pressure to be perfect in this culture, and our attempts to change fall victim to this pressure. It takes 300 repetitions to get something into our muscle memory, and 3000 repetitions to change from one thing to another. When we are attempting to quiet our minds, and stop our worrying, our hypervigilant scanning for danger, our past analysis of relationship problems, and our looping, obsessive thoughts, we face a challenge that causes many of us to quit just as we are beginning to embody a new practice.
The challenge is that our awareness of our old behaviors increases as we pay attention to them. Even though we are successfully doing the new practice 35% of the time, all of a sudden it feels like all we’re doing is enacting the old, stressful habit. If we continue our new practice, this feeling of failure will continue to plague us until well after we are doing the new practice 50% of the time. “I can’t believe I’m still doing that same old thing. Something must be wrong with me, or wrong with the practice.
Maybe I’m doomed to be stuck this way forever…”
The great news is that we’re not doomed. If we keep going, practice the new habit, get support from others, and offer compassion to ourselves for the difficulty of the change process, we will suddenly find ourselves embodying the new practice 65% of the time. Once we reach the two-thirds mark, it’s much easier to continue practicing.
“I’ve almost got this! Soon I won’t be doing that old habit at all!”
If I have my way, people will learn how they change, discover ways to engage their bodily sensations and awareness on behalf of any change process, and leave their heartbreak behind.
How does this truth about the process of change apply to your stressful thoughts?
When I started the Quiet Mind practice in 2005, at first it seemed like all I was doing was stopping my stressful thoughts. Once I identified that I needed to stop any “heavy” thought, I was really busy stopping thoughts. Most of my thoughts were heavy! I was stopping thoughts that were future planning, and thoughts that were about past relationships and events. Many of the thoughts seemed harmless. I wouldn’t have thought I should stop a thought like, “I need to call Jennifer,” but it turned out to be heavy.
Why was "I need to call Jennifer," a stress-filled thought? When I checked my reason for calling Jennifer, it turned out I thought I should call her because I was afraid she’d be mad at me at our next meeting if I wanted to talk about my agenda item. If I ran it past her first, she’d be forewarned, and less likely to get angry at me.
Underneath all that reasonable strategizing, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach, and I heard a voice saying, “you suck!”
When I wrote down my actual thoughts, I discovered that most of the heavy thoughts were either future planning or past analysis. And almost all of them were about relationships. I had social anxiety and didn’t even know it! My stressful thoughts were all about trying to gain approval, and be accepted and loved. Who knew?!
Once I had a clear understanding of where my negative thoughts were coming from, and how to identify them, I got to work stopping my heavy thoughts. It only took me about two weeks of stopping thoughts to go from a flood of stressful thoughts to a trickle. “This,” I thought, “is what inner peace must feel like!”
As I practiced stopping my thoughts, something wonderful happened. My brain seemed to “learn” that I didn’t want to think this type of thought, and it stopped producing the stressful thoughts I’d been stopping.
Suddenly I wasn’t having to stop thoughts anymore, because they weren’t even occurring.
When I was done, I had stopped 70% of my thoughts. My days felt more spacious, and I felt more calm and alive. Most of my attention was now directed either to my work, conversations with the people I loved, or to the world around me. I saw colors more brightly, felt the breeze on my skin, and noticed the quality of the light as time passed.
I was happier and I finally felt free.
Since then, I have continued stopping my heavy thoughts when they arise. Sometimes a situation in my life is stressful, and I need to stop more thoughts. Sometimes I will go through a month and only stop two thoughts. The practice has remained incredibly durable, and my life is vastly improved.
I want this experience of inner peace for you. I want you to feel empowered to change how you think, what you think, on a daily, momentary basis. I want to give you the tools to identify how your stressful thoughts feel in your body, and stop any thoughts that cause you unnecessary tension.
Once we’ve identified the felt-sense of your stressful thoughts, you will learn to:
Analyze your situation and make a plan to address any stressful life events.
Uncover your underlying beliefs and replace life-draining beliefs with life-affirming beliefs.
Work “body up” to change your baseline stress level so that you are more resilient.
I’ve created this course to help you stick with the practice of stopping your stressful thoughts.
The ideas are simple, the implementation of these ideas is where support is so helpful. While we increase our awareness of our extra thoughts, we often don’t catch them at first. Sometimes it takes a few minutes, sometimes it’s hours later before we finally realize we were thinking stressful thoughts.
We need patience and determination to bring our awareness to the moment of choice and enact the choice to stop our thoughts. A supportive community of folks working through this process at the same time will help you normalize your experience, realize your aren’t alone, and offer validation for the difficulty of even identifying, much less stopping, our stressful thoughts.
I’ve designed this program to help you:
Identify a felt-sense for a stress-filled thought.
Choose a sound and a gesture to use when stopping thoughts.
Analyze your thoughts to determine what kinds of internalized oppressive beliefs and stories are causing your stressful thoughts.
Replace your life-draining beliefs and stories with life-affirming ones.
Make a plan to address stressful life situations.
De-sensitize your anxiety, stress and trauma to help you soothe your body and lower your baseline stress.
Here’s how we’ll help you learn to stop your stressful thoughts.
First, we work from the body, not the mind. I often say that analyzing thoughts that you want to stop is like re-upholstering a couch you’re planning to donate to charity. Just get rid of the couch! We identify a way to feel the nature of your thoughts and determine whether to stop your thought by how it affects your body, rather than from an intellectual process. We don’t want to think more thoughts in order to stop our thoughts.
Second, we work with repetition. It takes 300 repetitions to get a new practice into your muscle memory and 3000 to change from one thing to another. To stop habitual thinking practices, we would normally need to implement 3000 repetitions. Adding the sound and the gesture to the thought-stopping process allows us to embody the practice much more quickly.
Third, we engage our wise adult consciousness to discern our stressful, embodied safety strategies in response to powerlessness, and devise alternate beliefs and practices that are life-affirming and aligned with our values rather than those we inherited from the culture and our family of origin.
Here’s what we’ll cover during the first lesson:
Lesson 1: Identify your felt-sense and create a sound and a gesture
Identify a felt-sense for “stressful,” “extra” thoughts. Once we have a “feel” for the thoughts we want to stop, we don’t have to “think” about them anymore. By checking the feel of our thoughts in our bodies, we get clear messages about which ones to stop.
Create a sound and a gesture to use when we are stopping our thoughts. The sound and the gesture help us take advantage of the 300 repetitions it takes to get something into muscle memory vs. the 3000 repetitions it takes to change from one thing to another. There are some important qualities to a sound and a gesture that works well:
Is it fast? If your sound and gesture isn’t quick enough, you won’t do it.
Notice which of the five senses you are engaging. There’s a kinesthetic feeling to the gesture and the sound. There’s the audible quality of the sound, and perhaps also of the gesture. There’s the visual of the gesture. Making the sound might even engage the quality of taste in your mouth. (Most sounds and gestures don’t generate a smell, but if smell is your primary sense, you might get benefit from using an essential oil to reinforce your thought stopping practice.)
Is it funny? Since we are stopping stressful thoughts, including humor in our sound/gesture can really help us shift our mood as we stop our thoughts. I use Doctor Evil’s “zip it” sound and gesture from the Austin Powers movie, and it still makes me laugh all these years later.
Remember that we often need to bring our awareness to the moment of choice before we can stop our thoughts. So if you aren’t aware of yourself thinking, or if you only notice after three or seven or 20 minutes, don’t worry about it. Just keep bringing your attention to your felt-sense. Your awareness will grow and soon you will notice yourself thinking/feeling the stress, and you can use either the awareness of thinking or the awareness of feeling to stop your thoughts.
The lessons are designed to help you quiet your mind, stop your stressful thoughts, and experience inner peace.
Each week, you’ll receive a new lesson by email and we’ll have a webinar that day to answer your questions about the previous week’s assignments and the next week’s lessons. There will be readings from the workbook, videos explaining the practices, audio exercises, handouts, and readings from the book Access to Power: A Radical Approach for Changing Your Life. The book can be purchased at http://www.nancyshanteau.com/access-to-power.html.
This course is my gift to the world.
It’s my hope that when you are done, you will be well on your way to experiencing the pragmatic, felt-sense of self-love.
Watch this video to learn more about the course.
“I used to feel safe by controlling what was happening around me, by arranging external affairs so that I was comfortable. Now I trust my wise adult consciousness. I used to have a sense of urgency in my body, that I had to act right away based on how I was feeling. Now I don’t feel compelled anymore. I don’t catastrophize what is happening to me. Maybe I don’t need to fix it, or maybe I can’t fix it. I can tolerate that feeling. I can wait and see. It feels very spacious.” — Sara Russell, Dance and Chi Teacher
“I didn't realize the number of thoughts I was having in a day. It was helpful to be aware and to have tools to stop the thoughts, like a sound, or a movement. The most helpful tool was writing down all my thoughts and categorizing them. It wasn’t so overwhelming when it was written down. On paper, it seems like not such a big deal. I could break it down, correlate my thoughts into different groups. I got to the root of it and let it go.” — Lydia Gonzales, Coach and Grant Writer
Meetings: We will meet on Mondays from 7 - 8:30 pm PT
First Meeting: Monday, October 22
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