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.
Why did I flail and get all upset when he honked his horn at me on the corner? Traffic was still going by in both directions. We did not have the right of way. They did not have a stop sign and yet he honked! How rude!!! I flailed my arms up above the seats faster than my thoughts. I looked at him in the rear view mirror and then pointed in both directions of the cars coming into view as if he could see me. He did and he raised his hands with palms towards me in some apologetic jester. I was not softened by it. My heart and mind were reeling. “Duh!!! The person in front of you is stopped for a reason,” I thought out loud. When the traffic cleared I made my left turn. He did, too. I got a bit ahead as I didn’t want him near me.
Grief has an edge to it and accentuates my feelings; shortening my reaction times or rather, I forget to hit the pause button and breathe for 10 seconds before I react. And on that corner, at that stop sign yesterday, I didn’t remember this… I just flailed my arms and expressed indignant feelings for another mile as I drove toward the highway.
Flailing as I did, I learned less than an hour later, was about my need to know I was OK. That I had not done anything wrong and to be accused of such, by the honk of the horn, was to be questioned… was to tell me that I was not in the right place.
Thank goodness I was on my way to my practitioner session. At first I wasn’t going to share this little scene as there were other things I wanted to talk about. But over half way through our session, I shared about the encounter on the corner. She asked me about the flailing and what I thought it was about for me. I paused and said, “I’m not sure, but I knew traffic was coming and I couldn’t go… I wasn’t doing anything wrong.” Ah… the nugget of truth… I needed to know I was OK, that nothing was or is wrong in the bigger picture. The little girl inside me needed to feel safe and assured… not accused and pushed. It wasn’t about the blue truck behind me and his inappropriate honking as one would initially observe, it was about trying to do my best during this time of my life and feeling that I am OK in the midst of much change and shifting emotions. I needed to just hold my heart and say, “Your OK. Nothing is wrong, you haven’t done anything wrong.” His honking wasn’t about me, but my reactions to his honking were and in that I learned what was needed. I am OK right where I am and as I heard this, I teared up. Funny how we do that when the truth of our being is revealed.
My beliefs can be jaded by how I observe my surroundings or by the stories I tell myself regarding what I see or perceive to be real. I must take the time to find out what is really going on or at least hold lightly in my mind and heart the current events so that I don’t go down a rabbit hole of false conjectures.
This picture, which I took on a ferry from Larkspur to San Francisco, is a good example. The window is covered by the spray of the waves, not rain. The sky seems gray, but only because it is early morning in San Francisco and the fog burned off shortly after my arrival. This image brings me joy because I remember the kind of day I had in the City by the Bay. To some though, it may conjure different feelings.
So here’s what it’s about… the stories about taking the time to notice not just what I see and sense, but observing my raw reactions to the experiences and writing about them; drawing you in to observe and to share your own responses.