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.
I read an email from Mike Dooley a few days ago. He said, “Instead of saying I am Happy or I am Sad or I am Hurt or I am Angry, pause and then say… “I choose to be Happy, Hurt, Sad, Angry, etc.” It woke me up to owning where I was going. Also, it showed me where I place blame. No blame is needed… I am acknowledging my choices. I was driving my car home after work this past week and I was tired after a full day of work and all that it entails. But I caught myself and said out loud “I choose to be tired.” Hmmm? What that gave me was the time to pause and think about if I am really tired or am I just saying this for another reason or out of habit? It also allowed me to ask this question: “do I really want to be tired?” So I said to myself out loud, “I choose to be happy. I have had a full day and I am hungry and will eat as soon as I get home.” Just adding “I choose” in front of whatever statement I was about to say evoked the question “do I really want that?” It shows me the power I have to choose. If you are like me, we grew up learning to blame and not taking responsibility for our feelings. We may have heard things like, “you make me so mad” or “see what you made me do” or “don’t make me think like that.” Wow! How we gave our power and happiness away to other people!
I think that when I say or think things unconsciously out of habit, they perpetuate feelings and outcomes for which I am just used to experiencing. It is like if we always say “Mondays Suck” then that brings with it the expectation and hence, the creation or experience of a sucky Monday. The power of our word and thought is huge and this exercise to say “I choose” in front of what we are feeling brings awareness and mindfulness.
This doesn’t mean that when I am truly hurt, angry or sad I blame myself for a less than a wonderful experience. No! But, if I am aware that I am ultimately in charge of my life and what I believe, then when I am irritated and hurt I can navigate through it better. What I choose to think and believe next will either take me through and out of the experience stronger or it will spin me downward to be consumed by it. Every thought is a choice and it is a practice to corral them to where I want them to take me; how I want to feel and be in the situation.
I believe that how I feel is directly related to what I am thinking and those things that I am telling myself. Yes, at the end of the day I need to have sufficient sleep and if I am feeling ill, I may need to make an appointment with a doctor. There are actions that I am to take to care for myself AND… those actions include becoming aware of what I am telling myself repeatedly or what am I saying about a situation that rises before me and how I react to it. Those spontaneous reactions are also very informative to my beliefs as they are not guarded and hidden but very much tell tale of what is in my heart and mind when something from left field enters my day or moment.
It takes consciousness to be happy. It is an inward thing. And it takes consciousness to be aware of the stories that you nor I want to play out in our lives anymore. Consciousness is cause and thus I am in training to bring about what I desire by exercising my power of choice.
Choosing to Observe,