Mind Training: Alchemizing Limitation Into Empowerment

July 17, 2023

Extending a warm, midsummer welcome back to the conversation we’ve been having around how to nourish the different spheres of self in order to realign with our purpose and rediscover our wholeness. We call these spheres the body, mind, heart, and soul, and many people like to pursue nourishment in that order: body, mind, heart, soul. As I’ve laid out in previous blog posts, I actually find it to be fulfilling and impactful to reverse that order and begin with the soul.

I find that by feeding the soul first, everything else downstream falls into place a bit more harmoniously since we’re feeling fulfilled at the soul level.

So far we’ve explored what it means to nourish ourselves at the soul level, and how to find harmony in our heart sphere, or relational sphere. 

In the last blog post, we dove into the topic of the mind with an overview of how our subconscious belief systems and belief statements drive our experience of life. This includes the beliefs we hold about ourselves, what we believe about other people, and what we believe about life. I concluded the last blog with an invitation for us all to begin a journaling practice to see if we can identify some of these beliefs that lie just behind our conscious awareness. 

If you are just joining us now, I extend that invitation to you. Perhaps take a few moments before continuing on to read the previous post and to journal about your belief statements, identifying both the limiting beliefs and the empowering beliefs. It’s helpful to create a mirror of our psyche that holds both sides of the spectrum.

If you’ve been able to identify some of your subconscious belief systems, great! If they’re not quite accessible yet and are eluding you, that’s totally fine too. This process of bringing our subconscious or unconscious beliefs into consciousness, or bringing that which is hidden into the light of our awareness, is exactly that: a process

Excavating our subconscious beliefs and alchemizing their limiting components into empowerment is a process that takes time, commitment, and curiosity. There are different models in the field of psychology that codify this developmental arc of change, so I’ll just highlight one here that I find particularly useful and relevant: The Four Stage Competence Model aka The Four Levels of Teaching Model

Four Stage Competence Model

  • Unconscious incompetence
  • Conscious incompetence
  • Conscious competence
  • Unconscious competence 

To understand this model, we can use the metaphor of learning how to drive a car. We begin with unconscious incompetence, not knowing what we don’t know. At this stage, I don’t even know that there’s something there that I need to look at or need to learn. Mom and/or Dad are driving, so why would I need to? I’m unconscious of my incompetence here because I don’t even know that driving is something I need or want to do.

Once I reach my teenage years, I’m suddenly aware that I want to drive a car, yet I don’t know how. I am now aware (conscious) of my lack of skill (incompetence). I know I’m not good at this thing, and I want to be able to gain skill and mastery so that I can drive. This is when I engage in practicing the skill of driving, and through lots of repetition and practice I eventually develop competence in this skill.

I now enter the stage of conscious competence, where I know that I am able to drive. I’ve taken driver’s ed, I’ve logged lots of driving hours, and I’m able to carefully drive around town with success.

As I continue driving, after months and years of driving every day, I notice that I don’t have to focus so intently on the act of driving anymore. Because I’m so comfortable and competent in the skill of driving, it actually doesn’t require as much conscious attention as it once did. I’ve entered the stage of unconscious competence. This is where you see people listening to podcasts while driving, eating their breakfasts on the way to work, and then arriving at work with almost no memory of the drive there.

Now, keeping this model as a framework for our inner work in the mind, we begin in that unconscious incompetence area. We don’t know what our limiting beliefs are, so we don’t even know that we can work to change them into more empowering, generative beliefs. Once we recognize the limiting beliefs, we are conscious of them and can begin a process of training the mind toward empowerment. Over time, with diligent practice, we notice that our belief systems are beginning to evolve into more expansive, open ones that feed our lives with awe and gratitude. At a certain point down the line, this becomes unconscious and our entire mental map of ourselves and the world reflects limitless potentiality, self-love, and abundant belief statements.

So how does one actually engage in that practice of mind training in between stages 2 and 3? It’s really quite similar to training the body in the gym and doing the reps. We’re building a strong mind, so to speak, and this process is greatly aided by what we call “self-regulation” practices. If we can self-regulate, then we can be more masterful at orienting our minds toward the positive self-empowerment beliefs and the reflections that we choose.

For me, the best self-regulation practice is breathwork, or pranayama. The breath is the most available and immediate resource for calming our nervous systems and centering our minds. A simple and effective breathing technique is “box breathing,” where we inhale for 4 seconds, hold the breath in for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, then hold the breath out for 4 seconds. We’ll want to repeat this for several repetitions or several minutes daily so that we develop competence in this skill. 

It’s important to develop competence in these self-regulation techniques regularly when things are going well, so that they are available in times of challenge or crisis. If we never practice the techniques and then just try to self-regulate during a crisis, we won’t have that strong anchor in our awareness that can only be cultivated through consistent practice. 

Along with breathwork, a favorite of mine is “contrast therapy,” or hot/cold exposure therapy. It really engages the mind around a practice of needing to be quiet when it wants to freak out. When we submerge ourselves in cold water or stand in an ice cold shower for several minutes, the sirens and alarms in our mind go off, telling us to get out. In reality, we know that a few minutes of this is not dangerous, so we can practice letting that go and finding peace in the moment. The same goes for sauna or heat exposure therapy. As long as we’re following recommended guidelines for temperature and duration, we can settle the mind and remain centered with our breath.

In summation, let’s work out this process of self-regulation and mind training through an example I gave in the previous email with the belief statement: “I love and accept myself fully.”

I love and accept myself fully. Is that true? Do I want that to be true? If I want it to be true, but it’s not true, can I adopt some kind of methodology that brings me competence or skill in that arena? And yes, I do see this as a skill, because while maybe some of you have always fully loved and accepted yourself, I know that for myself and many of my close people, it’s something that’s been cultivated and developed through much practice.

So again, I uncover all the reasons that I don’t love and accept myself fully. I uncover all the reasons that I think I’m not sufficient. And through this investigation, I can identify the times when those beliefs show up in my everyday life through negative thought loops or feeling as if our minds are going off the rails. First and foremost, we have to be aware of when our minds are spiraling in a loop or caught in the midst of recovering old trauma. Once we notice this is happening, then we can implement a breathing technique such as box breathing. 

{ Notably, “sufficiency” is a term from one of my heroines Lynn Twist, which essentially means that “I feel I am enough” even while acknowledging I am an ongoing work in progress and continuously evolving into my greatest self. Sufficiency is an aspect of being, not doing. It is based on my (and everyone else’s) fundamental right to unconditional love and the celebration of being alive, and it is not based on performance or needing to earn love, worth or validation. }

In those real-life moments when I recognize I’m projecting onto a person or situation because of a negative belief, I slow down my breath to self-regulate, and ask myself if there’s a more empowering, expansive belief I can adopt that will help to de-fog my perception and connect to what’s really happening. I can unwind all of those faulty programs and adopt new programs that hold myself and others in a more loving, accepting embrace.

We’re improving our ability to watch our negative dialogue and inner critic, recognizing that it’s simply just trying to keep us safe. As Duncan Trussell has said, “The ego is like a bodyguard that’s run amok.” This is actually a very powerful and important realization, because it opens us up to learn what the mind is trying to tell us and teach us, rather than just villainizing it entirely. Eventually we can let the internal dialogue go and pay attention to it when we need to, staying oriented and consistent with our strong, empowering beliefs we’ve chosen.

Our beliefs change over time, because our personal truths evolve and change over time. It is a natural, beautiful part of the human experience, so we’ll want to consistently investigate our beliefs so that we can release and replace any that are no longer in alignment.

The orientation that tends to emerge through this type of work is radical because it operates from a place of knowing that you are already worthy of love, and that you have something to share with the world. As this awareness grows and grows, so too does the understanding that every person you meet also has something unique to share with the world. 

Through this process of mind training, we can see that all life is important, and that every person, animal, plant, fungus, etc. has an important role to play in the web of existence. 

I hope this has been helpful information and a useful framework for cultivating a strong, yet fluid mind. In the next blog post, we will wrap up this series by discussing ways of finding nourishment and harmony in our physical bodies.

To your health, 

Dr. Dan

Get healthy. Stay present. Help out.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top