I awoke this morning feeling out of sorts. It’s amazing how one off thought can lead to the next and the next and before too long your head is filled with yukky thoughts and it seems like life sucks and everything’s hopeless.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about thinking lately. Our thoughts impact on us dramatically. Just yesterday I had a day that was partially good and partially me battling myself. The battling part was freshest in my mind when someone asked me, “How was your day?” Thankfully this was a conscious person who would really hear what my answer was. I say thankfully because when someone around you is conscious it helps us stay in an aware place too. That’s why hanging around people who are aware keeps us more aware and reading these sorts of books and blogs and websites does too.
Anyway she asked me how my day was and because she was very present, I stopped and thought of my options. What was my story going to be right now about my day? What did I want to choose for myself? I could be downcast and tell it her was very hard. That would be true – but it would focus my viewfinder on just that part of my day and I didn’t want to keep nurturing the unpleasant feelings. I could say it was fine. That would be true in the bigger scheme but would feel untrue and leave me unseen and alone. I thought a bit and finally said, “There were some very nice things in the first part of the day.” As I said it I felt myself lift a little as I remembered those good things. She laughed in appreciation of my choice of focus and said, “And the second part was fruitful?” “An interesting exercise” I replied and we laughed. I felt a lot better about my day all of a sudden. And there it was again – the impact of our choices on how we feel and how life looks to us.
This morning there it was again, this choice. Waking up, feeling a little off and starting to allow that feeling to guide the thoughts I had instead of the other way around. It’s not so easy though to simply change your thoughts is it? And if someone tells you, “Just choose happier thoughts” you want to do bad things to them.
The trick seems to be to first stop fighting off the thing you don’t want. As long as I am saying in myself, “I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want this thought, quick think something else!! I don’t want this illness, I don’t want this life condition, this relationship…” what I am ironically doing is feeding that very thing I don’t want because I am turning my viewfinder onto it and focusing there. Both yesterday and this morning I was trying to fight off a feeling I didn’t want. See? You can know the theory very well, practice it regularly and even write about it but you can still get caught up in the whirlpool of it. This isn’t about something to get ‘right’ – which is part of what I was forgetting in my battle.
“I want to feel better. I don’t want to feel like this. I know better. I have lots of tools. Why aren’t I managing to do it?”
There’s a question I love to ask myself because it helps me so much. It is this: “If I loved myself, what thoughts would I choose to think right now?”
I love this. The turnaround time from ugh to wheeee! Is super-quick for me with this one. I’m amazed how nice I can be to myself when I choose loving thoughts. But this morning even that question felt like a critique on my current state. Finally I said to myself, “All thoughts are available to me” and that felt like a relief. The reason that worked for me wasn’t the words I used, it was because I was no longer judging myself. It was a simple statement of fact. I have all thoughts available to me. I can choose any I want. Once I had taken the pressure off I relaxed and then felt out which thoughts felt nicer to me and lingered on them a little more and a little longer and slowly I felt more relaxed and open again.
I thought of people I know who struggle in horrible situations and wondered how much of the suffering comes from exactly this dynamic of fighting off what is there. Judging it to be bad. I suspect a very high percentage of our suffering is caused by us fighting off something we judge to be bad.
I thought, “If I was in a really bad situation I would really focus on choosing my thoughts more carefully” and then I realised how ludicrous that was. “Why do you want to wait until things are really bad to do it?” I asked myself incredulously. “Rather be delighted that you can do this now while things are fine.”