There wouldn't be enough time to process all of the words, "They scare me. They are slimy. They can bite me and kill me. They have devil eyes, and so on." They couldn't possibly think that fast--as you know from having seen or experienced this kind of thing in your own life. The instant this person perceived the physical reality of a snake, they would instantly yell, "Snake!" and immediately lose all rational control. They'd go into a panic flight to get out of there, diving under the table or jumping out a window and hurting themselves in the process. Now the point is that the term "snake" is a summary term for the collection of beliefs they have internalized about snakes. The term becomes a symbol that represents a whole cluster of horrid fears about snakes, so that they do not have to go through a whole list of five or ten paragraphs about why snakes are bad. All they need to register is "snake," and they can instantly understand "bad deal" and out the window they go. This symbol or summary term is so overlearned, and it happens so fast, that that person's body and mind go into automatic pilot. The same is true with you. Instead of "snake," however, your term might be "loser" or "trapped" or "useless." When I say "overlearned," I mean the reaction or thought has become a kind of shorthand. It's similar to the way prisoners tell jokes and stories while they're in the lockup. They tell them over and over, so many times, that they develop a shorthand for each joke: They can summarize an entire ten-minute joke by simply saying a number they all know. One prisoner will call out "Forty-one," and everyone will laugh, and another will call out "Twenty-nine," and they laugh again. They know what every number means. Through repetition, the jokes have been condensed down to summary terms and the collective information is packaged automatically into a single word or number. We breathe in for four counts, then hold our breath for seven counts and then, with the fullest exhale possible, expel all the air from our lungs to the count of eight. Beginning again, we inhale to the count of four then hold our breath for seven counts, and with the biggest, huffiest and puffiest exhale possible, expel all our breath out until our lungs feel utterly empty again, to the count of eight. We repeat this exact sequence for another two rounds to make a total of four rounds, and we are done.

We may feel a little tingly, perhaps even a little light-headed during our first practices of this exercise. This is a sign that our cells are being fully oxygenated at last. Often we breathe in very shallow ways, and our bodies can be a little surprised by a flood of wonderful, fresh air circulating within! I recommend practising this breathing exercise twice daily, ideally morning and night, as instructed by Dr Weil. It's natural that fear will rear its ugly head every so often. The important thing is to get back to a faithful way of thinking. Incorporating faith into your daily life is empowering. When you succumb to fear, the situation starts looking like a Pandora's Box of scary possibilities that freeze you in terror. As Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can or can't, you are correct." Your mind confines you, or it sets you free. "If you have low expectations for yourself, you will not work to reach higher levels of abilities" Instead, you unconsciously prevent yourself from succeeding if you are too afraid to create higher expectations for yourself and dream big. If you don't believe in yourself, who will? How will you accomplish great things? The concept of cognitive biases was introduced in 1972 by two psychologists, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. A cognitive bias is a systematic thinking error that impacts judgments, and therefore, our decisions. My favorite cognitive bias is the "attentional bias." It's scientific evidence for the idea that your life is a result of your thoughts. The attentional bias states that our perceptions are affected by our thoughts. And naturally, our perceptions determine our actions and decisions, which make up our lives. If you have negative thoughts, you also have a negative perception of life. That's what it says. Our mind might be illogical, but it's also simple at the same time.

Take one of the most well-known cognitive biases, the confirmation bias. It explains the behavior of confirming our preconceptions. If you believe in something, you will try hard to find information, clues, and signs to back that up. In other words, you do everything to prove you're not wrong. Instead of looking at facts, you look at beliefs. And that's what all cognitive biases do. As of this writing, there are 106 decision-making related cognitive biases known! I've read about most of them. And I've read several books and studies about cognitive biases too. My conclusion is that your mind can't be trusted. Maybe my conclusion is also a cognitive bias. Who knows? Now's the time to pick three things that you want to do to curb or normalize your worry. I'll offer some ideas. One technique is to start a separate worry journal; for this task, you sit down every day at the same time and write for ten minutes about everything you're worried about. Then put the journal aside and tell yourself, I'm not going to worry any more about that until the same time tomorrow. If you slip, get out your phone and write a note to yourself about the concern that came to you. But still put it away until tomorrow. Through this exercise, you want to both honor and corral your worry. How long has it been since you've skipped down the sidewalk?

Well, we're going to find out. Because here's where you can start to play and be creative. Accomplishment is something that can build esteem, but without balance it's a slave driver. So this list will be providing that balance. It's time to tell yourself, I have done enough, and move into, I want to play, to have fun, to be creative--without any pressure or expectation. I believe that as we conduct this internal audit, slow your automatic thinking down, and record it all in writing to create objectivity, you are going to be absolutely amazed at how you have been setting yourself up to feel and act the way you do. Through this audit, you are creating access to powerful influences on your concept of self. You are going to find that so much of this content is at odds with your authentic self and is the basis for the life that you are passively and reactively living. By putting a microscope and a bright light over these internal events, you can now observe, evaluate, and challenge what, until now, has been insidiously sabotaging your very existence from the inside out. In order for you to find your path back to your authentic self, you must become aware of these internal perceptions. You must learn how your internal processes have formulated your fictional self, only then can you fix what is negatively influencing your concept of self. If the oil pressure in your car drops, the problem is in your motor, not in the oil gauge. If you are living a fictional life that you neither designed nor wanted, the problems are in your internal reactions, not necessarily with the world events that have happened to you. You will always be challenged by the external factors in your life. The electricity may be turned off. The repairman will be late. You may not get promoted. These events may not seem so critical when you look at them objectively, but if your internal reactions to these adverse events are toxic enough, they may eventually cost you your health. I tell you this to insure that you take all of this very, very seriously. You may not be able to change what happens externally in your world, but you can definitely change how you react to and internalize it.

That is clearly a task worth doing. Let's start the audit and identify your targets for change. The incredible rise of technology, especially social media, has meant that many of us are existing in two realms in any given moment. We are experiencing the present moment in physical time and space, while busy working out how to best represent it to others through words and pictures in the virtual world. Never before have we documented and shared our lives so obsessively and instantaneously. Representing our lives through social media can be an exciting and creative experience, but it can also create immense distraction and anxiety. We are busy putting our lives on show, and not only to those with whom we share our physical world but to innumerable strangers in all places. Many of us now find it hard to have a beautiful experience and keep it to ourselves. The food we eat, the views we see, the trips we take, the intimate moments of connection we are a part of. Of course, there is real joy in sharing our lives with others, but we are called to intuit a happy medium in which we are present in the here and now, and are able to hold our magic in deeply personal ways, just for ourselves. We are called to be still and present with ourselves and others with whom we share our real world. To breathe life in and hold it attentively, respectfully and completely. I'm not a fearful person, which means I don't react to events from a fearful point of view. In fact, for the most part, faith has defined how I respond to life. I've also tried to be open-minded. Put simply, I try to view every event and experience as a learning opportunity. When I meet people, I enter into the exchange with an open, clear mind free of preconceptions and prejudgments. I always evaluate body language, eye contact, and how a person uses language. I also try to understand each person's background and anything that will give me a better understanding of how the person thinks. We all have lived varied and different lives, so each person has a unique perspective.