Detox Your Mind

Words by Phoebe White

Phoebe talks us through the yogi niyama, saucha meaning purity. Saucha suggests we should not only detox our environments and diets to maintain a healthy body, but also that we find a clean state of mind so our thoughts, words and actions are also pure.

With her usual Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) twist, Phoebe discusses how we can detox our inner perceptions, thoughts and feelings so that we can relate to ourselves, others and the world around us with purity. 

I’ve been exploring the yamas - the yogic codes of being in the world here on Balance Garden over the last few months. Next up I’m looking at the niyamas, which are ways of being with yourself.  The first of the niyamas is saucha, which means purity or cleanliness.

The concept of saucha suggests that we should detox not only our environments and diets to maintain a healthy body, but that we should also find a clean state of mind so that our thoughts, words and actions are pure. This is important because, much like I previously discussed with the yama satya (truth), a ‘clean’ way of being will bring health and happiness through authenticity, where the external environment responds in harmony with our internal one.  

Internally speaking, where the attention goes, the energy flows. If we only focus on what could go wrong, we miss the opportunities that will make sure that things go right, this could be understood as ‘impure perception’, whereas a ‘pure’ (or saucha) perception would be able to hold the multiple perspectives of risk, opportunity and everything in-between simultaneously. 

Imagine how this one change of perception could entirely revolutionise someone’s life!

Our minds are powerful, and the unconscious patterns and programmes that ‘run us’ from the blueprint we developed as we grew up can either lead the way to all we desire or completely run amuck! Cleaning our blueprint from ‘impurities’ like worry, fear, judgement, assumption or self-doubt, can literally clear your view and therefore your path in life. Dr Terri Kennedy writes in the HuffPost:

The Yoga Sutras teach us that the entire world is our own projection, and that things outside neither bind nor liberate us; only our attitudes toward them does that… Guru Sri Swami Satchidananda said, “There’s nothing wrong with the world. You can make it heaven or hell according to your approach.”  The ability to reframe a situation is an important skill that can transform your life and our world.

So how do we go about detoxing our internal workings? 

Let’s break it down using NLP’s Communication Model to understand what’s happening neurologically at any given moment. Take a look at the chart below and the explanation that follows.

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Our brain receives information through the senses (see blue boxes in the diagram). Our sensory perception sees, hears and feels the external environment and those in it (and in some cases smells and tastes life too). In ancient yoga philosophy, they say we actually have more than the five senses, adding dreaming, and ‘wrong assumptions’ among others. We are also processing (mostly unconsciously) the many intangible physical qualities of the world and how it works, i.e magnetic fields.

Our neurology can take in 2 billion bytes of information at once. It would be simply impossible for us to function if we were consciously processing all this information all the time. To illustrate, if I asked “How’s your big toe right now?”, you’d know instantly how it was (much like you would if a stone fell on it). Although you weren’t consciously thinking about it until I asked, your neurology was on it, filtering the information efficiently, bringing forth the conscious awareness needed at any given time. 

So in any given situation, our brains interpret Goliath levels of information in split seconds so that we can respond. The information we receive from our senses is ‘filtered’ (see red boxes in the diagram), and we then we create an ‘internal representation’ (orange boxes on the diagram), which in turn impacts our ‘state’ (our general sense of safety or fear for instance) and from this, our physiology responds and we take action in the world (green box on diagram). For example, if we sense we’re in danger, our state will feel fear, our physiology will become energetic and we’ll either run away or fight (verbally or physically).  

As we grow up and experience our lives, our brain is always learning more and adapting our filters. It’s highly likely that each and every one of us has debris in the filters that needs a cleanout. So it’s worth reflecting on whether these filtering processes are still bringing you a pure perception, and therefore a pure experience of life.  

The NLP Communication Model defines the filters that sort the sensory input:

“The first layer of filter is what happens to the sensory input – we’ll either Generalise, Distort or Delete the information we receive through the senses. We then go on to process this through our values, beliefs, memories and what we call metaprogrammes.”

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So how do we understand, untangle and detox all of this? 

As demonstrated in my big toe example, our neurology can’t not respond to a question. So by asking ourselves questions, we can make new connections and find reflections that can help us rewire our programming.

Get a pen and paper and give the following questions a go - you can either take a bird’s eye view of your life or zone into a particular area or issue you’re working with. 

Generalisation: 

Example: Let’s say you played a game twice in your life and both times you lost. If you were ‘generalising’, you’d create the belief that you can’t play that game, and decline any future invites. A non-generalised outlook would say ‘I’ve not learned how to play it well yet’ and would eagerly question experts for tips. Beware the generalisations, they can end up being really limiting.

  • What assumptions are you making about yourself, others or the situation that are informing a set of actions?

  • Do these actions serve you?

Distortions

Example: Let’s say you arranged to meet a friend. You had a really quick phone conversation about what time and where to meet, but you both ‘distorted’ the information and turned up at different times.. (‘Oh but I thought you meant 7.30?’… ‘No, that’s when I said I could leave’.)  Whenever you realise you’ve misunderstood something, and can’t think how you did it, you’ve likely distorted some information on its way in.  

  • What are you hearing because you want to hear it?

  • What do you see because you want to see it?

  • What are you feeling because that’s how you think you should feel? 

  • What are perhaps the uncomfortable truths you are softening?

  • What are the positives you’re not willing to accept? 

Deletions: 

Example: You can’t find your keys. You look everywhere, even places they’ve never ever been or would ever get put. Eventually, someone else finds them on the hook, where they always are… even though you looked there. We’ve all done it! 

  • What is it that you don’t know you don’t know?

  • What might you be missing?  (this is a tricky question to ask yourself, consider bringing an honest confidant to offer their view if they’re willing). 

How we intake information through the filters above then informs another layer of filtering and filing. These deeper filters create our blueprint and dictate how we respond when in ‘default mode’. 

Values: 

A value is what’s important to you. For example, I value kindness over having arguments so I let things go when others say I should stand up for myself. 

  • What’s important to you?

  • Which of these values your names above serve your life’s aspirations?

  • Which are more important than others?

  • Are there any values in conflict with each other? 

Decisions and beliefs: 

According to NLP, a belief is a series of decisions that make an assumption.  The generalised opinions we have about ourselves and the world form the rules we abide by (or rebel against) and are concerned with what we think we can and can’t do e.g. I believe it’s polite to be on time and often plan far too much time to get somewhere. I get angry when someone is late.  

  • What do you believe about yourself, others or the world that might be out of date, limiting or not backed up by evidence? 

  • What might you no longer believe but are still responding to? 

Memories:

We are making memories all the time and although our conscious awareness may not be recalling the exact time and place, memories inform our beliefs and values e.g. I remember hurting myself on a flame so it makes me nervous to get close to the fire. 

  • What past hurts or exhilarations are informing your choices today?

  • Are these choices still bringing you hurt or exhilaration? 

Metaprogrammes

These are most unconscious of our filters and there are many.  I’ll talk more about these in future articles, the one I want to highlight now is our approach to motivating ourselves. 

We can either motivate ourselves toward something, like earning more money or away from the opposite, like being poor. Or like gaining a qualification in order to learn something that interests you or in order to avoid disappointing others. 

  • How do you motivate yourself – toward a goal or away from a consequence?

  • How do the people you get on with most motivate themselves? 

  • What about the ones you don’t?

  • How would you prefer to motivate yourself?  

Some of these questions are deeply probing, remember the teachings of the previous yamas, especially non-violence – be kind to yourself. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have at our disposal. 

If anything has come up that isn’t what you like, it is completely within your power to do something about it. 

Take a look at my article about the yama aparigraha on how to let go. Or start, continue or resume a meditation practice (see How to Pick a Meditation Practice), I’m sure most meditators and meditation teachers would agree it’s the best way to keep your internal world clean and clear.

Rewiring our internal programming requires awareness of the status quo, willingness to try something new, and a whole lot of practice and reflection. And remember: where the attention goes, the energy flows. 

Happy detoxing! 

If you’d like personal support, in person or online, with any of the topics raised in my articles. Please contact me via phoebewhite.org or write in the comments section below. 


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A long serving Londoner, Phoebe is a qualified practitioner in Neurolinguistic Programming, life coach and yoga teacher, and experienced singer songwriter. She’s been leading workshops in a range of personal development topics and supporting people to achieve their goals for over 15 years. She teaches and sings regularly in North London and all around the world.

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Contact Phoebe via her website or on phoebesinger@gmail.com for 1-1 enquiries.

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