Have you ever being driving down the road, and automatically got off at the wrong exit because you have used that exit many times before? Unconsciously, your body made the same decision and took you on the path you have gone before so many times. This happens to me we I get on a local freeway, but from a different location. I have the GPS set for my desired destination, but I take that familiar exit which I had no intention of taking. ARGH! I, then, maneuver myself back on the freeway and continue my way as the GPS is doing course corrections.
Recently, it happened again and I observed how this can be equated to how I, and maybe some of you, find ourselves thinking thoughts we no longer want to have or saying words we no longer want in our vocabulary. Words and thoughts have created patterns in our consciousness for so long that we are unaware we are using them until we are 5 minutes into a conversation in our minds or with someone else. Words and thoughts are so powerful. They evoke emotions and perpetuate the same actions and reactions for which we are trying to free ourselves. I know that I have conversations in my mind… conversations that have never happened in real life. But, inside my mind, my thoughts and words are churning me into a fit of undesired emotions which cause physical reactions in my body. Why do we do this? PATTERNS! Patterns are very comforting even if they are unhealthy. They are known, reliable, and familiar. It is easier to stay in a pattern that is unhealthy than create a new path for the mind to learn and thus, create change.
When I get on the local freeway from a different location, I have to consciously remind myself where I am and where I am going. If I start talking or listen to some music, the familiarity of the exit that I am not supposed to take is very powerful. So are the thoughts and words I wish to no longer practice in my life. I need to stay mindful about what I want in my life so that I have mastery over my thoughts, words and actions. This is also a time where I can look at how I think about different topics and why I believe the way I do. Is it a habit? Do I truly believe what I think? Do I enjoy the outcome of my thoughts, i.e., do they make me feel better or contribute goodness and peace? Taking the wrong exit off the freeway doesn’t make me feel good. I lose time and it shows me that I was not being mindful. The same is true when I speak or think in old familiar ways. It doesn’t make me feel good, it wastes time, and it can cause needless pain to myself or someone I care about.
What are your observations? Are you on automatic, going down the same old path of thoughts and words that steal your energy and time? Taking a new path requires more than just telling our GPS where we want to go, it takes consistent mindful awareness as we navigate to our new destination.