Fairfield County Edition

Manure Management for the Mind

If you have a pet, you have manure of some kind to clean up. Animal waste must be managed on a regular basis or it will quickly become unpleasant. This task is probably already part of your daily routine. If you use this clean-up time to engage in manure management for the mind as well, it can become a key to promoting your own health.

As a bodily function, manure is healthy, but it can become toxic. Our human minds frequently produce manure as well, which also can be destructive. The messages we listen to and absorb generate this manure. If we don’t recognize the manure when it starts and sift it out like waste in a litter box, it becomes more and more difficult to identify and remove.

Toxic thoughts and limiting beliefs can become soundtracks that play on continuous loops in the back of our minds and affect our behavior even if we are not aware of them. Finding and disposing of those thoughts can have a profound effect on our well-being. The way to discover and dispose of the manure varies depending on the stage it is in.

Stage 1: Fresh Manure

Fresh manure is a thought that pops into your head that you are immediately able to recognize as toxic. It is not constructive or meaningful; it’s just distorted or mean-spirited. These thoughts are relatively easy to dispose of, because they are new and stand out from the background, just like a pile of fresh manure.

For example, if someone you don’t respect makes a negative comment to or about you, you may be annoyed by the rude behavior, but you probably won’t give much weight to their comment. Since you don’t take what they said seriously, it doesn’t become part of what you believe about yourself. Similarly, if you are trying something new like skiing and say to yourself the first time, “I’m a failure”, you may be able to immediately reframe that thought to, “Of course I’m not good at this, it’s my first time so there is no pressure to do it well. I’m learning.” 

Since you’ve mucked out that fresh manure, it isn’t likely to become a recurring theme. Consider negative comments or thoughts that are easy for you to reject. Do they fit into certain categories? What is it about those subjects that make you feel more confident? What is the process that you use to reject and remove a fresh toxic thought?

Stage 2: Midway Manure

Midway manure is a repetitive thought or belief that you still are able to question if you think about it, but mostly you ignore it. It has been in your head for a little while and is starting to become part of the soundtrack. It is harder to recognize because it’s no longer clearly distinguishable. Midway manure is also harder to remove because even if you get the bulk of it, little pieces may remain. Limiting beliefs and negative self-talk are often at this midway stage.  

You may hear yourself saying things like, “I’m not smart enough, strong enough, talented…” If you say that to someone who asks why you believe that, you may be able to give some examples from your life. But if they ask you to give examples of times when you have been “smart, strong, talented”, you can still do it. In the process, you recognize the distorted perspective.

Listen carefully to the messages you give yourself. Do you criticize yourself regularly, even about little things, saying things like “I’m so stupid”? Each time you have one of these thoughts, write it down. Consider if there is anything constructive behind the thought, such as, “I would like more training in this”, or if you are simply beating yourself up. The next time you hear that thought, replace it with a more positive one such as, “I made a mistake and that’s ok” or “I don’t know everything and that’s ok” and write that down too. Change your self-talk to focus on your strengths, not your perceived weaknesses.

Stage 3: Muddy Manure Magic

Muddy manure is almost invisible. It has blended with the dirt underneath it during wet seasons and then dried out. It is deeply embedded and impossible to remove fully without taking the dirt below with it. Muddy manure is the thoughts and limiting beliefs that have become so much a part of your background soundtrack that you don’t even hear them anymore—you simply accept them as truths in your life.

Muddy manure is magical because it has started to compost, transforming the nutrients in the manure into building blocks for development. Once you find it and turn it over, it is gold, because it represents the greatest opportunity for growth.

Where is the muddy manure in your mind? You may need some help recognizing this because it is so deeply embedded that you’ll think it is part of you. You’ll know you’ve hit on muddy manure when you have an emotional reaction to it. For example, if deep down you believe you are “not good enough”, that limiting belief will impact you throughout your life. Once you are able to recognize and change that belief, magic can happen.

Make it a habit to assess the manure in your mind anytime you are managing your pet’s waste. Sifting the cat litter box, bagging dog poop or changing the water in the fish bowl may seem like mindless tasks, but if you engage in some manure management for the mind at the same time, your home and thoughts will be healthier.

Carrie Brady is the founder of Possibilities Farm in Wilton, where she partners with horses in innovative non-riding programs to bring out the best in humans. In her manure management for the mind retreat, horses help clients discover and replace their limiting beliefs. The horses generate more than 100 pounds of manure a day, so she has lots of time to practice manure management. Connect at PossibilitiesFarm.com. See ad, page 35.

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