I was listening to the radio recently on a long drive and heard a brief piece discussing the running of the 4 minute mile. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the subject, the four minute mile was thought to be impossible. Once the 5 minute mile had been broken it was collectively assumed that this was the limit of human performance. However, in 1954 Roger Bannister defeated the record (and our perceptions) by being the first to run the 4 minute mile. Once this had been achieved, a great many athletes also broke the 4 minute mile barrier. It was almost as if, once the world saw that it could be done, runners were blasting through the 4 minute barrier like it never existed. So, how did Roger Bannister overcome the perceived limitations of human ability? I would suggest that the difference between Roger Bannister and other runners of the time was that he believed that he could, while others did not.
Whether you think you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right. Henry Ford
So, when it comes to creating a goal or intention it can be helpful to first look at your beliefs. When you set your last goals or resolutions did you achieve them? And if not, was it a lack of action or poor technique that impeded you, or did the failure lie in gap between your aims and your beliefs? Did you really believe you could achieve what you set out in your intentions? Could you see yourself experience greater health, peace of mind and loving relationship etc? Or did you set an external goal that was in conflict with your internal belief of what you think you are capable of?
For many, just like the runners of pre 1954, we have very set ideas about who we are, what we are capable of, how we look, and what kinds of relationships we can have etc. When we fail to examine these beliefs, the results of any goal setting – no matter how sophisticated our techniques – we will often fail to achieve them because our inner beliefs, stored in the subconscious mind, work against our external goals.
This does not mean that your subconscious is out to get you – or has a hostile attitude towards your growth and fulfillment. It is simply running the ‘programs’ that you set at some point that limit your beliefs and attitudes. So, to change a belief, we have to change our mental programs. For instance, say you have a belief that you are continually busy. You tell yourself and others constantly that you are busy. Your life is programmed for busy-ness, and you have adapted to a state of constant multi-tasking just to get by. What happens when you set a goal of being a more relaxed person? Well, because you have set your internal program to ‘busy’, in fact by constantly repeating that you are busy mentally and verbally, you may struggle to find relaxation in your day. The habit of busy-ness becomes deeply ingrained in your belief system (ie: when I am busy I am important, successful, valued and achieving), and therefore although you know you want to be more relaxed, the belief system will get in your way. Any moments of relaxation that you can create feel uncomfortable, and busyness feels more like ‘home’.
Examining these inner beliefs is the first step to understanding why we aren’t living a life that we feel we have designed, and meditation or contemplation is a good way to start. If your aim is for a more relaxed life, when you try to relax, what comes up? Where does the restlessness or tension arise from? Can you sit with it, like a friend, and try to understand it? If your aim is to become more fit, but getting off the couch feels too big, how does that feel? What prevents you from moving?
Secondly, the use of visualization can be very helpful in creating a new inner program. Visualization is like advertising to yourself, and many of your current beliefs are a product of your visualization. We know that visualization works, it is in fact how you achieved anything you have set out to do in your life so far. Now, it’s just a matter of using new programs, new visualizations to have new experiences and approach the world in a new way. Maxwell Maltz examined this in his book Psychocybernetics – an oldie but a goodie – and his theories and ideas have been expounded on for decades since its first printing. In fact, I first came upon his work in a book on horse riding and the use of visualization to overcome issues in both horse and rider. Athletes, musicians, performers and yogis all know about the power of visualization to not only achieve short term performance goals, but also to begin to ‘clean up the hard drive’ of your mind and start to examine, adjust, and purify your belief systems so that you can continue to consciously create the life that you have always wanted.
So, I like steps. How do I begin to create new inner programs and, like Roger Bannister, bust through the perceived limitations in my life?
1) Meditate regularly. Sit, follow a guided relaxation, or take a slow and silent walk in nature. Your ability to access your mind is best when you are relaxed.
2) Accept. Rather than deny or fight against your current circumstances, embrace where you are at now and use the power of awareness to help you move beyond old programs.
3) Journal. Write out what comes up when you try to set goals and imagine achieving them. Regularly write down your aims, and examine your obstacles.
4) Imagine. Visualization works best when it is:
a) In the positive ie: I will do this rather than I won’t do that.
b) You imagine it like it is already happening
c) See yourself having the experience from the perspective of your body rather than seeing yourself on a video screen
d) Consistent. Mental programs take time to change. Make your visualization regular and use the same words, images and ideas for best success
The practice of Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) which is a guided relaxation technique, is highly effective at helping you to relax deeply, cleanse the mind of old programs and beliefs, and offers a forum for creating new affirmations (Sankalpa) Many Yoga Nidra programs are available on CD or on iTunes.
The Lost Mode of Prayer by Gregg Braden is a great book or book-on-tape that explores the power of visualization
Books like The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer, or books by Vernon Howard or Joseph Murphy are very accessible and practical.
An experienced meditation teacher or meditation system can be very helpful for students without a meditation practice, and can offer support during the process of meditation.