How Spinning Thoughts Keep Us from Writing

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Like a clock whose hands are sweeping, Past the minutes of its face,
And the world is like an apple, Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find, in the windmills of your mind.

Written in the 60’s for the original “Thomas Crown Affair” movie with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, this song has been recorded by no less than 50 different artists.

Perfectly descriptive of the hero’s racing thoughts as he contemplates the intricacies of an unheard-of heist while manning the cockpit of a glider, a plane requiring enormous focus, awareness and skill.

A beautiful demonstration of the complex qualities of the brain. And yet how often do we sail through hour after hour of our day unable to recall what our thoughts were? Like a clock whose hands are sweeping, Past the minutes of its face.”

It is 4:00 my time now and while I can recall the events of the day and the things I have “accomplished” for lack of a better word, I cannot tell you 15 of the last 1000 thoughts I have had. I just picked those numbers randomly. Statistics vary, but those in the know estimate the human brain entertains between 12,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. Add to this the varying layers of thought we have and that is one big ball of spinning letters.

For example, I can hear drums somewhere very close, but I cannot see the who or where of their source. My apartment, fabulous as it is, affords an amazing view of Sacre Coeur, but cocoons me from the activities of the surrounding streets below. And while the drums sound as if they should be accompanying a marching band, the cadence is one of protest. Curious, my mind immediately begins to probe the possibilities, simultaneously proving its plasticity as I layer the mental power needed for the task at hand, writing this blog. Oh, and thinking how amazing Paris is.

Ok, yes, I did get up, open the glass doors to the balcony and attempt to hear what was going on, but I returned to my seat just as quickly once I recognized my curiosity could only be satisfied if I ran whilly nilly down the 8 flights of stairs, dashed the length of the one-way street the building sits on and around the corner to the main thorough fair, Boulevard de Clichy. I am neither that fast, nor that curious. Besides, it is raining and I currently have on my house shoes, better known in Europe as slippers.

Just for fun though, let’s look at that more closely. For a brief 3 or 4 minutes, I entertained 4 varying subjects; curiosity over the events on the street; contemplation on how I could discover what was going on; elimination of the desire to pursue my curiosity physically which was layered with the dozens of thoughts free floating through my head, as I tried to capture one that could be used to demonstrate the beauty of this tiny computer in our heads, which we call a brain.

And that is just what happens on the conscious level of our gray matter.

Underneath the thoughts we think we are thinking, are the one we have unconsciously attached triggers. The thoughts based on memory, past conclusions or pattern we often don’t even catch. Those are ones that guide us to behave a certain way based on something that has happened, or that we imagined happened before.

A simple example of that would be the day we are caught out in the rain without an umbrella and get soaked. For days, weeks maybe, we remind ourselves to grab our umbrella to prevent another similar occurrence. But, then if it happens that the weather turns sunny long enough, our brains will tell us that we don’t need to carry our umbrella. Unless that is, it has become habitual for us to reach for the umbrella. That habit, that is what this post is about. How does it start?

We all have daily rituals, dressing showering, brushing our teeth, a certain way we go to work, shopping for what we will have for lunch or dinner, dropping clothes off to be cleaned, packing our briefcase or backpack. We go about these things without much thought. Or so we think.

Underneath the surface, “the windmills of the mind”, comfortably ensconced in routine behavior are spinning furiously about dozens of subjects, often simultaneously. We just don’t notice. And yet these thoughts can have a profound impact on our lives.

“Like a snowball down a mountain…” another lyric from the song. A perfect metaphor for the thinking process. If the thoughts are good thoughts, ones that propel us forward in the direction of our dreams, perfect. Let the snowball roll.

On the other hand, if these often unconscious, habitual thoughts are not ones that serve us, that snowball can be like a cartoon, rolling over everything and everyone as it plunges downhill destructively. Catching the things we “tell” ourselves

I see that as our most important job, consciously becoming aware of the windmill of thought, especially the “out of control” snowballs. And directing them toward the heat of the sun. Where hopefully they melt into manageable puddles.

To make that happen, we are going to have to use every bit of our conscious brain. Let’s give it a whirl:

  • Stop right now, right where you are (unless you are on a motorized vehicle in the middle of traffic). If you have a pen and paper handy, write down your last 5 thoughts. If not, use the note app on your phone.
  • Can you come up with at least 5? If so, yea you, you may be a psychologist, psychiatrist or neuro surgeon, or you have just learned how to pay attention to your thoughts. Awesome.
  • If you are not able to come up with 5, take whatever you can get (you are in the majority here, so don’t sweat it.)
  • Look at those thoughts. What feelings do they evoke?
  • What action will you take based on those feelings?
  • What will be the result?
  • Is that what you want?
  • If not, recognize you have the greatest gift in the world, the freedom to choose. Choose now what you want your results to be.
  • Working backwards from there come up with the feelings you want to have. Thank you Daneille LaPorte for coming up “5 Core Desired Feelings”. Now you choose five feelings you want to feel on a regular basis.
  • What thoughts would you need to have to facilitate those feelings?

It can be that simple, or that complicated. We choose. We can either let our thoughts be “Like a door that keeps revolving in a half-forgotten dream…” or we can master the stealth needed to catch them.

Then we become the masters of our own awareness, the creators of our feelings, without regard to time, space or the events swirling around us.

What do you choose?