Welcome to Mental Space Monday! Where we journey inside the rabbit hole of collective consciousness and submit to the whims of curiosity.
This week, as we dive into the rabbit hole I want to talk about a concept that stems from my ontology theories and is central to my interior design work. I call it Visual Mantra. We've all heard of mantras - they are the stuff of Buddha and yogis and all of those "woo-woo"-thinking people, right?
Here's the thing - check out the etymology of mantra:
from Sanskrit: an instrument of thought; thought behind action
That doesn't sound so scary does it? When you put it that way, it doesn't sound woo-woo at all. In fact, consider this:
A fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience. -American Journal of Psychology
Psychologists agree that we have repetitive mental processes, the yogis are simply choosing a mantra as a way of intentionally forming habits.
So here's what both of these terms tell us: repetition is powerful. Whether that means practicing a new skill or training your brain to view the world a certain way. And there are millions of pieces of our lives that are done out of habit (intentional or unintentional) from the food we eat and the music we play to the spaces we spend time in and the self talk we use to interpret ourselves and the world around us. Our repetitive behaviors quite literally create who we are and who we are becoming through the formation and connection of new neural pathways in the brain.
Knowing all this, there is a factor that we are all ignoring that plays a huge role in our awareness of the world around us and how we instinctually act within it. What is it? It's our surroundings; the spaces that we spend time in. Our homes, our offices, the bank we go to at the end of the day, the restaurant that we love. The visual repetition of these spaces impact our mental interpretation of the world just as a mantra repeats an idea and a habit concretes behavior. Further, the places that we are drawn to appeal to us because they speak to some aspect of ourselves that we want more of.
SO WHAT? What this means is that just as we can intentionally choose a habit (walking the stairs instead of taking the elevator, drinking more water) or a mantra ("I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and doggone it, people like me") we can also be conscious and intentional about our visual mantras. When you come home at the end of a long day, does your home relax you? Does it remind you what is awesome about your life and your self and inspire you to be better at all of it? If not, you need to shift your mantra.
Does that old chair in the corner make you feel cozy and grounded or does it make you feel worn out and tired? These feelings are input to your brain even when you aren't conscious of it. Regardless of you paying attention to the subtle effects that your surroundings have on you, your brain is still connecting those neurons, which then release chemicals into your system, which then affects you: your thoughts, emotions ... your reality.
Think of it this way: It is a well-researched fact that our environments affect how we behave on a meta level. The discarded peanut shells and concrete-floored plastic seating at a baseball game tell your brain to act very differently than the solemn book-filled rows and studious atmosphere of a library. Your behavior at your favorite neighborhood dive restaurant is not the same as it is at work. Yes, these are learned behaviors but they are cued by the environment in which they take place.
How powerful would it be if you could create a space that reminded you of the conscious, intentional version of yourself? If the visual cues that you give yourself tell you wonderful, hopeful, beautiful things about yourself, your future and the world in general. You could intentionally redirect your neurons to be thinking what you choose. You could use your visual mantras to create intentional mental habits.
This topic has endless nuances and implications; suffice to say that the creation of intentional, effective visual mantras can make you happier, healthier and can literally make you see the world differently. And the places that we have the most control over are also the places where we spend the most time, our homes of course topping this list.
Through over 11 years as an interior designer, I have learned that there is not a "perfect" sofa that I can recommend, there is simply a sofa that is the goldilocks-like "right fit" that makes our interiors effective. It is not about what your sofa looks like, it is about the life that it helps you to live, it is about the retreat it offers when you have a good book to read or the ease with which it allows you to chat with your book club over wine. Check out my blog here on why, even as a designer, I don't care what your sofa looks like.
So here it is: I challenge you to be more aware of the visual mantras that you are repeating to yourself. I want you to actually take a pause as you move through your spaces and consider how they actually make you feel. Consider the overall impression they have one you when you really pay attention to it. Also consider each piece within the whole. Do you think of a fight with your ex every time you look at your sofa? Maybe your needlepoint pillows remind you of your nasty great aunt, who you never really liked that much anyway. All of the stuff that we choose to surround ourselves with is speaking to us. If we learn to listen, we can also learn to filter out the messages that do not further who we are or to move on from the reminders of things that no longer serve us. This exercise can be a process, it may show you that you need an overhaul. Either way, make sure you are intentional about what you are replacing these pieces with as well. If you are choosing a new visual mantra to repeat to yourself, make sure that it says exactly what you want it to say. Let it celebrate the beautiful, unique, quirky things that make you you and let it remind you of where you come from and of all the dreams you have for the future. You may be surprised at what you realize about your current spaces and also what you realize about yourself.
Good luck lovelies. Embrace the delusion; enjoy the results.
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