Episode 031 Mental Clarity
Welcome back! I am just fresh out of teacher taking where for 5 1/2 days we (a group of 30 yogis) learned and discovered different ways to Fly. I took this FLY training at Laughing Lotus, my home studio, and we dove deeper into inversions and arm balances within the yoga practice. We looked at anything from crow pose to handstands and everything in between. That much I was expecting. I figured we would spend out time on the mat looking at all of these shapes. What I didn't anticipate was how they would weave other aspects of the yoga practice to create that same sensation as flying. We used meditation, mantras, chanting, journaling, stories, and playing in groups. Every aspect of the yoga practice was on the table and they created and amazing experience.
I wanted to share this story with you because we as performers are constantly asked to fly. We are asked to seemingly do the impossible and create magic, and because every day is different we might not know how to access our magic and our ability to fly. Todays's lesson is going to uncover what we can do daily to tap into pure mental clarity.
As performers whether at an audition or on stage we need to have tools to clear out the mental for and get really focuses and centered. When you step into that very clear and connected space, the magic begins. Let's talk about some ways to find that sweet spot.
I believe that one of the most powerful ways to clear out mental fog and create clarity is through your stillness practice.
Every day we have thousands of thoughts, and while some are very useful, most of them are not. We clog our minds with expectations, future tripping, disappointment, and unloving thoughts. Every day our minds look like Grand Central Station at rush hour with trains running on a delay. It's crowded, agitated, and overwhelming. The sweet spot looks like Grand Central Station at 2 am; quiet, open, and focused.
How do we get from one to the other...practice stillness. Stillness can have many forms. It can be meditation, mantra, prayer, journaling, reading poetry, listening to ambient music, working with crystals, mandala coloring books, really anything that brings your mind to a slower pace.
The thing you need to do is commit to the practice of stillness. Mental clarity does not come in one 10 minute session; however when you show up daily to your stillness practice your mind slowly becomes less crowded. Another beautiful thing the that happens is that you begin to build your stillness toolbox. That toolbox will be at your disposal when you are having days that are busy, crowded, and overwhelming.
If you haven't tried meditating, really allow yourself to experience its power. Real talk: meditation isn't easy; especially when you are first starting. At the beginning, it feels maddening. I remember feeling like a crazy person when I first started to pay attention to my thoughts. It gets easier; I PROMISE!
If you want to try a guided meditation sign up for Oprah and Depak Chopra's meditation experience that starts April 10. It's 21 days of eradicating fear and doubt. Now if that doesn't speak to you as a performer I don't know what will. The will send you an email a day with short meditations and any journaling to do after. It's free and is a great way to get started in your meditations.
I find for me that adding a mantra to my meditations distracts my mind from thinking. Try using a mantra like:
- I am
- Hare Krishna
- Let Go
Your mantra can be anything you want, just repeat again and again for about 10 minutes. You can set a timer or as yogis we often use mala beads to count out our mantras. Hell, I have even used my fingers to keep count.
Another wonderful benefit to using mantra is that you can use it anywhere you go. In line for an audition and starting to feel nervous? Mantra. Waiting to go on in the wings? Mantra. In a long tech rehearsal? Mantra. Use these mantras to clear the fog.
Journaling is another powerful way to get into mental clarity.
I believe journaling works because it exposes your mind and your thoughts. It's as if you are shining a light on all of the good and bad inside your brain. I often coach my students to use a technique called mind dumping, or journal word vomit. This technique asks you to resist the urge to edit your thoughts. Get some paper or your journal and begin writing any and everything down on paper. Don't focus on ay specific topic just write. The only rule is to write. Mind dumping allows you to pull the thoughts from your mind and put them onto the paper. You are literally creating space in your brain. Often I will have my students do this for a 1 to 2 weeks to really get a hold on their thought patterns. If this method speaks to you more than meditation, jump right in and get those crazy thoughts down on the page!
Let's switch gears a bit and talk about brain fog and mental clarity from a different perspective.
Did you know that your daily diet might be contributing to your brain fog? Without getting too much into the science, there are 3 hormones that are mostly in charge of mental clarity and brain fog. Cortisol which helps manage stress, serotonin, and dopamine which help keep you happy. When one or more of these hormones fall out of balance you may experience mental fog. Symptoms may include:
- Difficulty focusing
If you are experiencing anything like the symptoms above you might want to look at what you are eating. Foods like over processed grains like white bread and pasta, sugar, artificial sugar, caffeine, alcohol can contribute to your ability to think clearly and stay in the magic. While sugar may hype you up at first, you will later experience a crash that stunts your ability to think and focus clearly. Then you need more sugar and you create this cycle of needed sugar that can lead to sugar addiction. This addiction over time will mess with your ability to create natural energy, fall and stay asleep, and tap into that space of clarity.
You know what you put into your body directly affects how you feel. This is why I teach the Ayurvedic lifestyle. The foods that bring you in balance are the same foods that provide nourishment, help you feel energized, and allow you to stay mentally clear. If you think I talk about foods and meal prep, and shopping lists because I want everyone to look good, you've missed the point. I want all of you, my family of performers, eating well so you can continue to create magic on and off stage.
Think about what you are eating on a daily basis and see if there is room for improvement. Are you drinking diet soda, eating a lot of pre-packaged foods, or consuming too many sweets? Is there an opportunity to trim back and make space for foods that fuel your mind.
If you haven't listened already, go back to episode 29 True Nourishment to learn all about food that nourishes you from the inside out.
Foods like sweet potatoes, whole grains, avocado, fruit, broccoli, raw dark chocolate, eggs are all great examples of foods that fuel your mind. Could you begin to add in 1 food listed above each day?
Fueling yourself with foods like these in addition to your stillness practice allows you to step into an audition room or stage confidently and clearly so you can create magic everywhere you go.
One last lesson I'll teach today to clear away mental fog is to remove and/or minimize negativity from your life.
At the beginning of this lesson, we talked about meditation and its power to clear ways the thoughts. Now let's take it a step further. Look around to see what in your life is bringing negativity around you. This is a hard one because it might cause you to trim TV shows, jobs, experiences, and even people from your life.
You want to be wildly protective of your magic and if your environment and social circle are adding to your negativity then it might be time for a change. Do you need to trim away some people from your social media feed who only spew negativity? Or maybe you need to unfollow people who cause you to be negative when you see their photos. Get rid of them. You don't need to add negativity to your life.
Sometimes you might need to trim friends or family members away. Obviously, that one takes much more work and I honor that if that's something you are going through. When your mental health and clarity are at stake sometimes tough choices have to be made. Now, maybe you don't need to trim or cut off anybody. Maybe you can begin with an open conversation about your experience with them. They may not even know they are doing it.
Recently I had a conversation with my husband on a project we are collaborating on and the language and tone he was using around it. When I called attention to it, he immediately backed up and stated that wasn't his intention and apologized. Sometimes all you need is a little awareness around it and an open conversation. It might always go as smoothly, be prepared for that. It's from that conversation that you can make an informed decision about where you want to go next with those relationships.
Trimming negativity can come in a lot of different forms. When you limit those experiences you can begin to slowly take steps into that magic space of mental clarity!
Begin required to stay clear and in the moment as a performer is a gigantic task and also crucial to our art. Ever been on auto-pilot on stage and your scene partner forgot a line and you couldn't help out. Or you missed a line because you were thinking about that awful thing your friends said to you before the show? Practicing mental clarity and building your toolbox to clear away the fog is a performer's best skill. When we are in that sweet spot we can fully listen and respond in the most genuine and human-like manner. That skill we can use day in and day out, on and off stage.
To sum it up:
Practice you meditations and stillness
Clear out any brain-clogging foods
Trim away negativity
Get to work!