Full text of memory expert Anthony Metivier’s talk: Two Easily Remembered Questions That Silence Negative Thoughts at TEDxDocklands conference. In this talk, the creator of the Magnetic Memory Method shares the two most powerful and immediate tools of self-transformation that are easy to remember and anyone can use them to create focus on the present moment and experience instant freedom from negative thinking.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Anthony Metivier – Founder, Magnetic Memory Method
How would you like to completely silence your mind?
I know you came here to have better thoughts, not ‘no thoughts.’ Right? But wouldn’t it be nice to just shut them off, on demand, in a way that creates just complete being, just perfect wellness, on demand and in a way that lasts?
I figured out how to do this, and I’ll teach you the basics today. I only hope you don’t ignore this, because I went through years, decades of mental suffering, thanks to the blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, in my mind. And it didn’t help that I tried to shut those thoughts off by swallowing antidepressants and antipsychotics with alcohol, day after day after day for years.
But my biggest sin on top of all that nonsense was being a very committed atheist.
You see, I didn’t believe that turning your thoughts off was possible, because I thought it was connected to whoo-whoo. And I’d meditated for years but I certainly didn’t believe in something called PNSE or Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience, certainly not when my friend, Ben Fishel told me about this, while we were sitting outside of my favorite cafe in Brisbane.
And I had meditated for years, so I noticed that the Sun was shining. I noticed how good the hot chocolate coconut milk tasted, and I noticed that my favorite topics were on the table: meditation, philosophy, the truth, and what we can say about the truth in a way that makes it stick, so that everybody is on the same page, which would be bliss, right?
Well, despite all of Ben’s many qualifications in meditation, the science of it and his knowledge of the history of many spiritual traditions, I wasn’t having any of this.
“Pavement has no thoughts,” I said, and there is plenty of it; it’s everywhere. I want lots of thoughts, radiant thoughts, the most beautiful perfect thoughts, endless thoughts, truth thoughts.
Now, I have to take responsibility for my ignorance in the end, or at least my eye has to take responsibility. But I was also caught in a YouTube’s algorithm, you know, the kind you press a button and then for three days, three weeks, three months, three years, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, in this case, new atheism; science, science, science. If it isn’t scientific, it’s whoo-whoo; it’s the enemy.
So, Ben looks at me with this clear, crystal, present eyes and he says, “You have to read Gary Weber.” Always say, ready to completely knock this down, because I know what’s coming next.
But it turns out that Weber was a very good professional scientist, who himself needed a secular way to stop the thoughts in his mind, because they were torturing him for years, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And he needed something that would work without the need to believe in it.
So, I listened.
And Ben said, “Really, all that involves is memorizing a couple of things.”
And I’m a memory guy so I thought, game on, if that’s all it takes. You see, I’d used memory techniques for years; I used them in university to deal with depression and to deal with the brain fog from swallowing your pills with beer. I’ve also used them to create wonderful language learning experiences, and even wound up getting my wife with one of these stunts because her dad was smart enough to not let her daughter walk away with a guy who couldn’t have small talk in her mother tongue and sing a song at the wedding.
I even sat with a two times Guinness world record holder for memory and did not too bad for a guy who swallowed his pills with Guinness, on the way to the memory competition. It’s not really that funny but such was the extent of how I was trying to quiet my mind.
So I went home, looked up this Gary Weber guy, ordered a book called ‘Happiness Beyond Thought.’ Shortly after that, another one called ‘Evolving Beyond Thought’
And sure enough, this is what Dr. Weber says, “Memorize some Sanskrit, and your thoughts will start to turn down. And if you do it right, you can maybe even blow them out like a candle, so that they never start up again.”
Now that’s a very huge promise. But I thought, if I could even just go from volume 11 down to 10, this would be sweet mercy. And I was interested in this Sanskrit stuff, because I did a PhD and took some linguistics courses along the way, and this was attractive to me. I like to learn languages, as we heard today already, it’s not that hard.
So, I got into this Sanskrit; 3,500 years old at least, and many wonderful philosophical texts have been written in this language. It’s notorious for its precision, in cutting through the noise and getting to the heart of things.
But this work, it’s not really about the Sanskrit, it’s not even really about words; it’s about the ability of patterns, to neutralize patterns. And I found this out in a very interesting way.
Because at the back of ‘Evolving Beyond Thought,’ Weber has assembled all the Sanskrit he recommends you memorize, and he has these English statements with them that I took to be the English translations.
Memory guy, sure, but also a little bit of an absent-minded professor. So, I’m memorizing this Sanskrit and this English. [Sanskrit Phrases]. Clearly not English, is it?
But what a beautiful mistake! What a blessing in disguise. Because, as I’m working with this, day-in and day-out, this English is very simple.
Are my thoughts useful? How do they behave? And as thoughts come roaring in, as they tended to do on autopilot, I start to answer with these questions.
Are my thoughts useful? How do they behave?
How do my thoughts behave? Are they useful? The order doesn’t really seem to matter. And these thoughts just start to fall apart, unless of course they were useful, because sometimes you do have useful thoughts. And I found out that it’s a very good thing to observe the usefulness of thoughts, so maybe you can have some more of them from time to time.
Now, Eckhart Tolle in ‘The Power of Now’ has this quote that used to frustrate me. He say, “Focus all your attention on the now, and tell me what problem you have in this moment.”
I don’t know about you, but this little undisciplined mind, it can find all kinds of problems when it focuses on the moment, right? But as we think about our future and our sight, for how we’re going to deal with the future, what I needed and what I think we could all use, there’s not so much a focus on anything in the now, but rather tools that help us not destroy, not dissolve, not chase away, but simply neutralize the noise.
Because the more I looked into it, the scientists and the spiritual people, they do agree about one thing, they are on the same page about one thing, and that is that energy doesn’t die, it just changes form.
And I found out that the neutral form in my mind is pure bliss, and it is agreement.
Now, I eventually figured out my mistake and memorized the proper English for this Sanskrit. And there are thirty sets of questions in total in this book, ‘Evolving Beyond Thought.’ and in this case, it’s really just simple: Mind is the great folly. Mind is that undisciplined little boy but it’s the mind that thinks it’s the big man; and that thought is folly; that thought is illusion.
And this was beautiful to work with, beautiful to realize because we’ve seen all the best minds of our time, roaring at each other; keyboard warriors, Twitter storms. Even the best of the best, I think, their little undisciplined thoughts are the big man. Right?
We’ve got to be able to get past this. We can’t afford to not see and extract value, even from the things we don’t like. And I realize that I almost missed this, because I thought it wasn’t philosophy; but this is a very ancient philosophy. You could call it self-inquiry, as some people do.
And one of its earliest philosophers said, “This inability to see and extract value from the things we don’t like, because we are so stuck on the things that we do like.” He calls it ‘the like/dislike monster.’
So one day, I’m sitting there, dealing with the Internet, not so much Twitter storms or keyboard warriors but a C-Change. You know, you run an online business and one day it’s this way, the next day it’s that. But instead of throwing my computer across the room and jumping up and down on it, I go for a walk. And in a park not far from that cafe where Ben set me on this adventure, I sat and I sang my little Sanskrit song, and then it happened. All my thoughts disappeared. Just gone. It was exquisite.
And it happens more and more often; the more that I practice. Of course, I still have thoughts. I got myself here today, planning thoughts. Extroversion. How can we help more people? How can we help them more often? Not so much I, I, I, but you, you, and you and you.
And when a battle-axe of thought comes in, I have this great simple little tool that’s super simple to remember; you don’t need a bunch of memory techniques to do it, and these thoughts just fall apart.
Are they useful? How do they behave?
Now, five years ago, the little boy who thought he was a big man, wouldn’t have agreed with Aldous Huxley, who said, “A totally unmystical world would be a world totally blind and insane.”
I don’t know about mystical or not mystical; these are just words. But I was blind and insane, and we see all kinds of people on network news, on the internet, they don’t even talk into this anymore. It disappeared into their ears. Blind and insane, but we can’t change them; we can’t change anybody else and we know that deep down inside, because it’s thoughts that make us think it’s even possible.
But you can change ‘you’ and I think you’ll be surprised by how quickly it happens, when you start to not destroy, not to dissolve, not to chase away your thoughts but simply neutralize them.
Now the question is, do you have to memorize as much Sanskrit as I went on to memorize? Piles of it, mountains of it. It’s amazing. I highly recommend it. I don’t know but I don’t think so.
The next time the great like/dislike monster raises its ugly head, or maybe the next time you are the like/dislike monster, you can simply stop and ask yourself:
‘Are my thoughts useful? How do they behave?’