I’m sure you’ve heard the research that says the average mind thinks between 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day. But have you ever really contemplated what these thoughts are exactly, and, even more out there, who’s thinking them?
My guest on the podcast this week was Scott Byrd, who recently wrote the book A Cloudless Mind with his co-author Paul Smit.
A successful entrepreneur and performance coach, Scott has a unique fascination with the mind and the thoughts it produces, and he uses the analogy of clouds to help us understand with a visual picture how the mind works.
We’re a stressed and anxious culture. Few people can deny that. But in Scott’s pursuit of an understanding of why we’re so stressed and anxious, he dove head first into fascinating neuroscience, that, as you’ll hear in this episode, feels both radical and intuitively precise.
You see, without having to physically survive our living conditions (we no longer sleep outside or run from saber tooth tigers), much of what our brain is left to do is simply try to survive our social conditions. In fact, that dominates much of our brain’s activity. To go a step further, much of our survival mechanism is rooted in making sure we belong and succeed socially… we fit in, are accepted and liked. And this causes a lot of stress and confusion.
To quote from the book: “Due to the confusion, stressful thoughts arise that act like clouds in the sky. Sometimes these thoughts are beautiful, light, wispy clouds that pass quickly and cause no upset. Other thoughts develop into dark, ominous clouds that block the power of the sun and create a feeling of heaviness and misery.”
Try this on: our brain’s job is to create thoughts, a process that’s no different from our heart beating or our lungs breathing. Also, there’s a YOU that has the ability to watch those thoughts and even upgrade those thoughts. That might seem pretty profound, or maybe even a little perplexing.
But for those of us in pursuit of a more peaceful inner world and a more harmonious outer world, this idea of having a cloudless mind is worth considering.
1. Our subconscious mind is processing information at about 11,200,000 bits per second while our conscious mind moves at around 60 bits per second. The thing to note about this huge difference in processing speed is that clearly there is so much more happening in our subconscious mind than in our conscious mind. Your brain is a very efficient machine and it helps you live most of your life without boring your conscious mind with every detail. But, this means we live on auto pilot most of the time. Consider the ramifications of that.
2. There’s an unstoppable pattern to your mind’s function. The subconscious mind, the factory in Scott’s analogy, works away at helping us live our lives with seemingly little effort, while the reporter outside narrates what’s happening, much like the old men commenting on everything little thing in the show The Muppets. Notice this pattern.
3. In the pursuit of self-awareness, we can begin to see these two subconscious and conscious processes at work and begin to see them as what they really are: functions of the brain, no different from heart beats from the heart and breaths from the lungs. The self-aware person starts to see that he or she is the watcher or witness of this process, not the process itself.
4. If we become the witness or the watcher of our thoughts, we can start to see patterns. In using Scott’s analogy, we can start to see the clouds that move in, and tune into the thoughts that create our anxiety and upset.
5. To quote from Scott and Paul’s book: “By understanding that you are not your thoughts, you can look at them and stop believing them.” You start to distinguish between functional thoughts and worrying thoughts, and enter a space of ease and effortlessness.
6. The point, or even the goal, is that we can learn to harness the power of the mind rather than simply live under its influence.
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If you’re anything like me, this conversation is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of reflecting on and trying to understand the power of the mind. Scott’s book, A Cloudless Mind, is a great way to start turning this Rubik’s Cube of neuroscience and cognitive philosophy around. And what’s great is that you can read The Cloudless Mind in an hour or two. It’s a short book designed to be, what the authors call, light deep reading.
If your interest is piqued, head over to www.cloudlessmind.com where you can learn more about Scott’s book, podcast and videos, which are all about understanding the mind and helping you living a more harmonious and successful life.
I’d love to hear from you about this episode and past episodes. Or if you have a suggestion future guests, I’d love to hear that too. Send me a message here.
Until next time,