What’s on your mind right now, as you’re reading this? Pay attention to the thoughts that pop up.
Are you feeling an urge to check your email? Or Facebook?
Do you have articles open in other browser tabs that need your attention?
Did you forget to reply to someone’s text?
What are you going to eat for your next meal?
Are you sure you don’t want a coffee before you read the rest of this?
These are distracting impulses. You probably recognise at least a few of them. They’re the seemingly innocent beginnings of a process that steals your focus, crushes your confidence and guess what… kills your ability to connect with other people.
Your distracting impulses are a big part of why you don’t know what to say in conversations. Let me explain.
This triangle is what your mind looks like when you start a flirty conversation with an attractive woman (or man).
Since you spent the last few moments mentally preparing yourself for the conversation, the back of your mind is still hanging on to the anxious thoughts (in red) that you had while you were deciding what to say.
Your environment is throwing information at you left and right, but you’re missing it because you’re stuck in your head. The only thing you’re externally aware of is “HOT WOMAN”.
You run out of good things to say, because none of the thoughts filling up your mind triangle are ideal for conversation.
So what does all of this have to do with impulses?
Let’s say you follow an impulsive thought now, like checking Facebook absent-mindedly for the 20th time today.
If your mind has a fixed amount of processing power, then in order to think about Facebook it has to ignore something else. So it takes in less information from your external environment.
If you constantly follow your distracting impulsive thoughts you create a habit of looking inside your mind for new stimuli, instead of looking to the external environment. And through that habit your awareness (or your window to the external environment) becomes smaller.
Have you noticed for instance when you’re anxious the world seems visibly darker? It’s because you have almost no awareness of your external environment. You’re stuck chasing the thoughts that are already rattling around in your mind triangle.
Those thoughts stay in your head longer because there are no fresh thoughts coming in from your environment to replace them.
That’s why you can’t snap out of it for a long time. Because you’re stuck in a closed loop.
And it’s why you can’t think of good things to say in a conversation.
This is what it looks like.
So what does this have to do with attracting women (or men)?
You want your mind to look like this instead.
That’s what an aware mind looks like when talking to a woman.
An aware mind doesn’t get distracted by impulsive thoughts. It spends less time overanalysing everything because it prioritises taking in MORE new information from your external environment.
It allows you to see subtleties and nuance. Details that you miss with a distracted mind.
Say you’re walking through a crowd. With a distracted mind you only see a crowd, whereas with an aware mind you see faces, eyes, personalities.
When you’re talking to a woman an aware mind gives you better things to talk about. Instead of just seeing a “HOT WOMAN” you notice that her skin feels particularly soft when you shake hands, or you hear something in her voice that sounds a bit like Rihanna, or you pick up a hint of confidence in the way she talks.
Based on those three things that you noticed, you can come up with a ton of things to say:
- “Wow, your hands are so soft. Do you wash them in butter?!”
- “How do I make my hands that soft? Look how hard they are.” (also gives you an excuse to touch her)
- “Are you like a masseuse or something?”
- “You’re a good singer, aren’t you? Something in your voice reminds me of Rihanna.”
- “Can you teach me how to sing?”
- “What’s your karaoke song?”
- “You have a pretty confident vibe going on. Are you someone’s boss?”
- “No? Well you should be. It’d be nice to have little minions to boss around, right?”
- “Is she always so confident? She really sounds like she knows what she’s talking about.” (said to her friends)
It’s also difficult to get anxious when your mind is aware. Your mind doesn’t have time to develop that initial “Will she like me?” thought into full-on anxiety because it has too much new information coming in from your environment.
Thoughts like “What should I say?” fade away quickly, before they have time to grab hold. There ain’t no room for that sh*t in your mind triangle because you’re in the zone. You’re connecting.
So how do I develop an aware mind?
You can see how giving into distracting impulses creates a mind state that kills your confidence and makes it difficult to connect with people.
The good news is you can develop an aware mind with a little practice.
Below is a simple form of meditation that’ll get you there. Think of it as exercise for the brain.
Once you get the hang of it you’ll literally begin to feel a gap between your impulses and your autopilot actions. The gap gives you the awareness to override your impulses and change your behaviour. Once you train your aware mind you’ll be less self-conscious throughout the day and you’ll notice subtler details in your environment.
Many people don’t realise that meditation physically changes your brain. It thickens areas associated with mind wandering and emotional regulation. And the effects stay with you permanently if you meditate regularly.
Your Challenge: 20-minute focus meditation
This particular form of meditation is all about bringing your awareness back to an object of focus: the physical sensation of your breath inside your nostrils.
It sounds easy, but takes time to master. You’ll notice how it starts off difficult to stay focused and gets easier when you meditate every day.
To begin, just sit in a chair in a quiet place with your back straight. Rest your hands comfortably in your lap, palms up. These are not strict requirements but they’ll keep things simple when you’re starting out.
Put your awareness on the physical sensation of your breath inside your nostrils. Keep it there.
There is nothing else you need to do for the next 20 minutes, so prepare yourself to simply let go of any thought that will arise, no matter how urgent or innocent it may seem. And keep coming back to the feeling inside your nostrils.
During the twenty minutes, everything that tries to steal your attention away from that feeling of the breath is considered a distraction. Distractions are good. You need them in order to be able to keep coming back to the breath.
So when you notice you’ve been distracted, don’t worry about how long you’ve been distracted for, just think “Oh, distraction” and keep coming back to the breath.
One of the first things you’ll notice when you meditate is a feeling of unsatisfactoriness. The feeling that you want something in this particular moment to be different. You might feel like you’re doing it wrong. This is a distraction. Go back to the breath.
Likewise if you feel like you’re doing it right, this is also a distraction. Just keep coming back to the breath.
All negative thoughts are distractions. All positive thoughts are distractions. Even subtle, neutral thoughts are distractions. Just keep coming back to the breath.
Sometimes you won’t notice that you’ve been distracted for a long time. These distractions are the same impulses that cause you to act on autopilot throughout the day, without realising you’re distracted. Once you eventually realise that you’re distracted, just think “Oh, distraction” and keep coming back to the breath.
The thing that builds your aware mind is NOT staying with the breath longer. It is each moment where you bring your awareness back to the breath.
The thing that overrides your impulsive thoughts is simply choosing to put your attention somewhere else when you notice them. By meditating daily, you get better at noticing them. By putting your attention somewhere else when you notice them, you create a gap between your impulses and your actions.
As you relax, your breathing will become softer, which will require you to pay more attention to the feeling of the breath in your nostrils. When you pay more attention, you will notice subtler details about the feeling, which means your awareness is getting sharper.
You’ll begin to notice distractions earlier.
If you think to yourself “Hey, my awareness is getting sharper. I’m noticing distractions earlier”, that’s a distraction. Go back to the feeling of the breath.
If you have an interesting thought you want to finish, go back to the breath. For instance you might begin to notice that your body is breathing on its own, without YOU consciously breathing, and you are simply observing it. This is great, your awareness is improving… but thinking about this is also a distraction. Go back to the breath.
If you remember something you need to do today, go back to the breath.
If you’re humming along to the rhythm of the breath and focusing on the humming, go back to the feeling of the breath.
If you feel tension in your body, like stress or anxiety, acknowledge that it’s there. Let it be there. It’s okay to feel that. Then go back to the breath.
If you start to feel bored, let yourself feel bored. Embrace the boredom. Then go back to the breath.
And remember that every time you notice you’ve been distracted, you’re making progress.
Is it difficult? Good. That means you need this. It’ll get easier if you keep coming back to it day after day.
When you turn your timer off after 20 minutes, before you get up ask yourself: Do I feel different from when I started my meditation?
Today’s challenge is to meditate for 20 minutes, though I strongly recommend that you also meditate for at least 5-10 minutes every day from now on. Preferably 20. You can build your way up.
This might all sound like hard work, and 20 minutes might seem like a long time, but once you get the hang of it you’ll look forward to your daily meditation sessions and feel rejuvenated afterwards. So put in some work to get to that point.
This daily meditation practice has the power to greatly change your life. You’ll learn to spend less time in your head, take in more information from your environment and find it much easier to connect with people.
And you know what that means (wink wink).
Check out the teachings by Sayadaw U Tejaniya (free books on ashintejaniya.org). His meditation style emphasizes cultivating awareness during all activities and developing interest in the mind’s reactions to things (instead of just reacting more and more). Learning about the patterns of mind can eventually lead to those impulses/reactions getting permanently eliminated due to insight/’wisdom’.
“The thing that builds your aware mind is NOT staying with the breath longer. It is each moment where you bring your awareness back to the breath.”
So if I am not getting distracted by any thought , I am doing it wrong??
Anyway, great article pete :)
Nice article! I’ve been meditating 20 minutes every day for more than a year now but haven’t really noticed any difference yet, nor do I look forward to them.
It kinda makes me sad because there are people who notice differences in just a month, even with shorter sessions :(
Maybe the improvements are very subtle or I’ve been doing it wrong all this time.
Anyway, I’ll try the nostril exercise from now won, because indeed: at one point your breathing becomes so soft it’s barely noticeable, and it’s hard to focus on it then.
Wow, best description of meditation I’ve ever read. Thanks Pete!