You might be surprised by this story.
It will tell you how mindfulness first came into Western culture.
It will also teach you a century-old thought-training technique.
Because our mental structure hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years–or the last 10,000!–this technique still promises to rock your world.
Mindfulness practices have been used to create happiness, clarify thought, and refine our thinking for a very long time.
Though “Hypnosis” is a scary word, it just describes a method for organizing our thought-stream—and such methods were discovered at the dawn of the 19th century.
But you should know that, as far back as Plato’s time (c. 400 BCE), highly effective people used thought-stream training for vocational success, reaching life-goals, and improving relationships.
Jumping 1500 years forward from Plato, we see modern work-lives and modern mindfulness techniques emerging at about the same time in the West.
The roots of today’s mindfulness’ techniques are found the 1700s—at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
These developments also coincide with The Enlightenment—a period when many things emerged that we now take for granted: the authority of science, faith in rational systems, and skepticism toward everything mystical. The Enlightenment started around 1620 and went hard and heavy for two full centuries.
Franz Mesmer (1734 – 1815) was a child of The Enlightenment.
He devoted his life to training attention, and the word “mesmerized” comes from his discoveries.
He brought people toward intense states of focus, “mesmerizing” them.
He’d sit silently with his clients, knee-to-knee, and put his attention on them, leading them toward profound states of concentration.
Today, we call this practice “hypnosis.”
During his day, people who watched him do it called it “auto-suggestion.”
They said Mesmer made people “suggest” things to themselves.
These suggestions healed them of the sicknesses Mesmer had been hired to cure!
CAT scans and other technologies not known in Mesmer’s time now reveal the valuable biological effects of mindfulness.
Before we begin practicing mindfulness, we should know that the journey toward focusing our attention is challenging because it forces us to break familiar mental habits.
But we should also know that mindfulness is simple to understand and easy to begin.
It’s very easy to say a few words inside your head.
Mindfulness uses these “suggestions” to the self.
The technique is widely used and broadly proven.
A recent Psychology Today blog reviewed numberless studies that confirm the effectiveness of auto-suggestion. Tests show the practice brings happiness, health, and vocational success to people of every age, ethnicity, and class.
After Mesmer’s time, auto-suggestion was taught more explicitly by the influential (and ever-cheerful!) Frenchman, Émile Coué (1857 – 1926)–who began his teaching in the late-1800s.
A few months back, Coué was quoted by my fellow Mindful Science blogger, Jorge Borges.
Jorge shared Coue’s mantra: “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.”
Just like the ancient yogis, Coue’ figured out that silently repeating a word-phrase can condition the feeling-state of the mind.
He used words that were near-childlike.
This makes his mantras easy to experiment with!
Here is an exercise for you.
You can use some–or all of it!
1) Write, “Every day in every way I am becoming better and better” on several pieces of paper.
2) Tape them in prominent places around your home—and tape one in the space between your wallet folds. (That way, you’ll see it by surprise throughout the day.)
3) Make a screensaver with the phrase.
4) Before you get up, and when you go to bed each night, sit up straight for meditation. (Laying down or slouching will retard the practice’s effectiveness–but sitting on a chair, on your bed’s edge, or even yogi-like on your bed pillows, is A-OK.). Repeat the mantra silently for 5-10 minutes—or even 30 minutes.
Just like bodily workouts, the more time you put in, the more effective the practice will be.
5) Say the phrase to yourself as you move throughout the day–as often as you remember to.
Do this for 3 days.
A few moments of this practice will have immediate impact, but if you do more than one of the actions, or do any for a long time, it powerfully compounds the effect.
Step one in mindfulness practice is to make yourself aware of your mental content.
Step two is to do auto-suggestion.
Nowadays, we often call auto-suggestion “self-affirmation.”
To optimize our mental activity, we want to:
1) Become mindful of mental content, then . . .
2) Make our mental content positive through affirming words.
Coue’s phrase does this well, and you can learn other strategies of this type in the courses offered by Mindful Science.
As you go forward:
—Trust that mindfulness has been proven over the centuries.
—Explore self-affirmation through the exercise offered here. Or get creative, making your own affirmations. (You can also tie affirmations to religious traditions–repeating Jesus’ name, for example–if that is important to you.)
—Subscribe to Mindful Science where you can unlock many new Mindfulness practices–including several approaches to self-affirmation.
Go! Try this easy, straightforward path, and scientifically integrate more happiness, clarity, and self-awareness in your daily life.
And let us know how it works out–in the comments below!
READ THE ARTICLE AT MINDFUL SCIENCE.