Skip to main content

Mindfulness + Business

Human Knots


←  Go back                                                  Next page

As a lifelong soccer player, coach, and fan, my attention was caught by a news story about a referee for a youth recreational league in Salt Lake City who died after being punched by a player.  This is only months after a linesman in the Netherlands was beaten by two teenage players as his son looked on.  Fortunately, the reason that something like this would make the news is because it is rare and shocking.  However, it does point to a consistent truth – each of us is capable of responding to our circumstances in a way that does harm.  

I work with people who are committed to forming and maintaining kind and helpful relationships.  Despite this commitment, every one of these people can identify moments when they have treated themselves or others poorly.  Why?  Because there is no escaping the fact that we are human.   

In order to find some acceptance for your humanity, I think it is helpful to know a bit about how your nervous system operates.  Taking in a small amount of information from the external environment, your nervous system compares this to past patterns that it has stored, and meaning is assigned to the events going on around you.  Whether an event is evaluated by your nervous system as a threat, an opportunity, or neutral depends upon variables outside your control such as genetics, current networks in your brain, and past experience.  This process of perception happens completely outside of your conscious awareness. 

Efforts to resist or avoid certain thoughts and sensations often make them more frequent, intense, and/or prolonged.
Based upon this perception, your nervous system prepares your body to respond by increasing activity in some systems and decreasing activity in others.  This change in activity results in sensations that you can feel.  A sensation is often accompanied by a thought that you experience as an internal conversation.  The thought is a linguistic translation of the sensation, and it allows you to forecast your perception onto imagined futures as well as communicate your perception to someone else.  

This gift of abstract thinking has allowed human beings to create ever increasingly innovative works of art, architecture, poetry, literature, music and technology.  The sticking point occurs in those moments when language, sensation, perception, and the reality they are supposed to represent get tangled into one solid knot that we will do almost anything to hold onto or get rid of.     

At any given moment, the perception, sensations, and thoughts that you experience are largely outside of your control.  Further, the research is very clear that efforts to resist or avoid certain thoughts and sensations often make them more frequent, intense, and/or prolonged.  

Awareness is the tool that allows you to untie the knot so that you can choose a wise and purposeful response to whatever thoughts, sensations, and external events show up.  Awareness creates space.  If we fill that space with acceptance for what is actually happening, then we can access the calm, clarity, connection, and confidence that we have been seeking all along.

Try this:
Listen to your thoughts as if you were listening to the radio.  You can listen to the thoughts that you hear in your head and you can listen to the thoughts you speak out loud.  

You will notice statements of fact – “the car is red” or “Joe is looking at my shirt.”

You will notice descriptions, judgments, and conclusions that are passed off as statements of fact – “that car is beautiful,” “Joe is a jerk,” “I shouldn’t have worn this shirt,” or "I never know what to wear."

You will notice language of limitation such as “I have to,” “I can’t,” “I must,” or “I have no choice.”  You will notice that limitations are easily projected onto others with a quick pronoun change – “you have no choice,” “she has to,” or “he can’t.” 

When you become aware that your language is judgmental, rigid, and limiting, practice bringing your attention to the area of your body between your hips and chin.  Look for any sensations of tension, fullness, emptiness, or movement that indicate unease.  

Breathe a gentle, deep breath
Accept that these sensations are part of being human, and 
Connect to the inspiring principles, purposes, and relationships in your life.  

After a moment or two of this, check in on the sensations and look around you to see if there are possibilities you could not perceive before.  

The more you practice this, the more skilled you will become. 


Dave Mochel teaches his clients the skill of Mindful Self-discipline.  He will teach you how to focus your attention, reduce stress,perform at your best, and reshape the quality of your life in spite of all the daily distractions. Dave studies and applies the latest scientific research on brain function and performance. Simple, practical techniques can help you channel your attention and achieve results. You learn to meet challenges with persistence and resilience, regulate your emotions, choose healthy behaviors, and build fulfilling relationships.

Source: Applied Attention: Coaching and Consulting;