We were snuggling in his bed reading a book at bedtime, and I could just tell, because I'm the mom, that his brain was going a thousand miles an hour; his body wasn't far behind -- feet rubbing together, fidgeting fingers, and when I asked if he felt like his body was very busy right now, too, he thought for a second and said, "No," while twirling both hands through his hair.
I used my Calming Voice and asked him to still his body, starting with his feet, then his legs, now his hands and arms, and then I asked him to listen to his thoughts for a moment, to see if he heard any. "What kinds of thoughts?" he asked. "Oh, any kinds of thoughts," I answered, and explained that we think a lot, and that sometimes, you have so many thoughts playing in your head that it gets very loud and distracting in there, and makes it hard to focus on the thoughts you want to focus on. So I asked him again if he heard any thoughts in his mind, and he said, "Yeah. A lot."
We talked a little bit about how the thoughts come from us, so we can learn to control them if we want to -- if we're having thoughts we don't like, we can get rid of them and think different thoughts. And if our thoughts get too loud and distracting, we can quiet them.
"Imagine," I told him, still using my Calming Voice, "that all these thoughts you're hearing are coming out of a radio. Are all your thoughts coming out of the radio now?" "Yeah," he said, and I could already see his mind stilling. "Now," I said, "imagine yourself reaching out to the radio, and turning the volume down." I lowered my voice to a whisper. "Are your thoughts quieter now?" "Yeah," he whispered back.
"Now," I said, "imagine yourself reaching over to the radio, turning it down alllll the way, and then switching it off." He reached out into nothingness with his skinny little 5-year-old hands, and mimicked this. I grinned, and told him that he can imagine doing it, in his mind, without even having to move your body. "Now, your radio's off. Your thoughts are quiet. You can't hear any more thoughts. It's quiet inside."
"My radio turned back on," he said.
"That's okay," I told him. "Mine does a lot, too. But you know what? It's your radio, with your thoughts, in your mind. You can reach over and turn it off again."
"I think I have a hundred radios," he told me. I replied, "Well, that's no problem. It's your imagination. If you want to, you can imagine a remote control that can turn off all the radios at once." "All at the same time??" "Yep." I saw him imagine this. "Now it's quiet. Now we're calm," I said.
Three minutes later, he was snoring, and I kissed his birthday-forehead goodnight, and quietly left the room.
This radio visualization? I use it all the time, when I catch myself getting too caught up in my own thoughts to notice anything in the world around me. It's faster for me now -- just a quick flash of my radio, and my hand turning the knob all the way down to Off. It may only last for three seconds, but that's a pretty calm three seconds.
Try this sometime, and let me know how it works for you :).
I'm curious, too -- what does your mental radio look like? Mine looks like the old-fashioned radio used before TV was invented -- the type the family listened to Little Orphan Annie on in A Christmas Story. The little guy said his was green. What's yours?