Recently I went to the movies for the first time in a long while. When I was younger, I enjoyed going to the picture show and loved being immersed in whatever was being projected on the silver screen. Today I rarely watch movies and when I do a prefer streaming documentaries in the comfort of my home.
After getting seated and watching 30-minutes of trailers for upcoming movies and enticements to engorge yourself on expensive junk food, I was becoming agitated to “get on with it” and wanting to start the show.
Just as the film began to roll, I was further challenged by the couple in front of us in the theater who were in the midst of their personal drama and continued talking throughout the movie’s introduction.
I found that even after the couple had stopped talking, momentarily, to watch the film, I was still thinking about them and their talking and thinking to myself how rude it was for them to be talking while I was trying to watch the movie. I found myself thinking about my next move – should I confront them or “suffer” in silence? This internal debate went on for some time, growing in layers. Me thinking – “Well why don’t you assert yourself and point out the disruption.” Me thinking about thinking – “Well he appears to be ex-military and is a possible altercation really worth it”, especially since I didn’t really care about the movie. Me thinking about thinking about thinking – “Remember that time when you challenged the older, stronger Rex when you were younger and got your ass handed to you?” And this went on and on.
My concentration on the movie was broken, and my focus had been diverted by my neighbor’s conversation. Truthfully I was already thinking about multiple other things while the trailers and advertisements went by. Side note – the theater jacked the volume up on these making it even more uncomfortable to experience.
And now back to the action… or rather reaction.
My reaction to the chatty ones in the cinema is similar to what happens to us, throughout the day, as we confront distractions. Instead of noisy neighbors in a movie house, we have thousands of thoughts per day racing through our mind and we can’t help it. These noisy thoughts often interrupt what we are doing and divert our attention. Unfortunately often we are not aware of this thought diversion and we follow our meandering musings. And to think our thinking is one of the great untapped powers available to us and yet we can be derailed by our own devices.
And to think our thinking is one of the great untapped powers available to us and yet we can easily be derailed by our own devices.
We are experiencing life and its many scenes while a narrator comments about what is happening, providing colorful play by play. We then can become fixated on this internal dialogue (our thoughts) and not be fully present as our focus becomes diverted by external stimuli.
When I realized I was not my thoughts that was a revelation to me. I could separate myself from all the mental chatter instead of being swept up in it.
Our brains exhibit rhythmic patterns of activity and produce waves of electrical energy that can be observed and recorded in an EEG. In my upcoming book Let Go, Let It Flow I briefly discuss our brain wave states and the relative frequencies associated with each.
Our brains are incredible neural networks that utilize billions of neurons to electrically communicate with each other. The electrical pulses from the neurons can be measured and we call the measured electrical waves, brain waves. The measured brain waves have a frequency to them as they are cyclical in nature. There are 4-common brain wave patterns (alpha, beta, theta and delta) each corresponding to a particular frequency at which the brain is operating.
And most of us spend the majority of our conscious state while operating in the Beta range of brain wave state. Unfortunately, this Beta brainwave state corresponds to the highest frequency range.
There is a direct relationship between frequency and energy that shows that the higher the frequency, the higher the energy expenditure required. And most of us spend the majority of our conscious state while operating in the Beta range of brain wave state. Unfortunately, this Beta brainwave state corresponds to the highest frequency range.
However, when we operate in the Theta brainwave state, we lose the sense of ourselves and feel at one with whatever we are doing and with the universe. When our ego diminishes and time itself becomes malleable, we are in a flow state as Stephen Kotler described in his excellent book The Rise of Superman. This Theta state is also known as the optimal state for inducing flow.
Meditation is a practice of calming your mind that results in lower frequency brainwave states. Buddhist monks have been observed and their brain waves operate in the Theta range and can do so almost at will. When we can operate in the Theta state a sense of oneness develops while the sense of the ego diminishes. We become totally absorbed in whatever we are doing. We are flowing in the zone.
My meditation practice has evolved over the years. At first, I thought the goal of meditation is not to think which is impossible. Now I like to allow whatever I am experiencing and to simply just let that be. Years later I still struggle with bringing my attention to the present moment. This why we call it practice.
Ultimately I practiced the same concept, noticing and allowing, at the movie, just allowing the couple to finish their conversation. The movie continued to play and eventually we all, I included, turned our attention to what was flashing before our eyes.