There are times in all our lives when things aren’t good, when we face challenges, obstacles, injury, illness, bereavement or whatever. And it’s hard to maintain a positive view when such events occur. It’s even harder if you’ve never practiced gratitude or positive thinking, or if you haven’t got some personal philosophy in place which helps you towards a wider perspective. Or if you’re not accustomed to monitoring your negative self-talk and steering yourself out of it. Or if you don’t practice some form of meditation which can take you to a place of stillness and peace on a regular basis.
The mind is like a monkey. It jumps and swings from one place to the next. It’s agile and restless and always on the go. Above all, it’s endlessly inventive , building thought upon thought and highly adept at making a drama out of a crisis!
“Life is like a river. We navigate the rapids with the challenges we face. We overflow with emotions when we feel sad and hurt or happy and joyful. We can recede and dry up when we feel threatened and unsafe or blocked and negative. We flow when we open our hearts and allow love understanding and compassion to rise up within us. The high tides are when we experience abundance and fulfilment and the low tides are when we feel defeated or at a loss.” (from my book “Finding the River”)
So how’s the best way to manage our rivers of emotions and deal with that monkey mind? The trick is not to leave the practices mentioned in the first paragraph till the time when you’re actually in the midst of dealing with a crisis or challenge, but to rehearse them daily no matter how good your life may be. It’s no good falling in the water and then suddenly deciding you ought to learn how to swim!
The early part of a New Year is a traditional time for setting new intentions and making resolutions. So the energy is right for getting on the case right now and tidying up your mental and emotional self-management! Negative thoughts are insidious and easily creep in under the radar. I remember the first time I started to practice self-awareness and being horrified at how regularly those critical, pessimistic and limiting views dominated my thinking processes. So I had to notice them when they arose and change them into being more optimistic there and then! When they persisted, I had to learn how to look for what was good in my life instead of concentrating on what was wrong with it. I also had to begin feeling grateful for what I had instead of dwelling in lack. When I was anxious or fearful I started to remind myself to stay in the present because right now, those negative scenarios I was imagining hadn’t happened! The past is gone and the future hasn’t yet arrived and the only place where it’s happening is right here and now. That’s the place to aim for……always!
Monitoring thoughts, practicing gratitude, trying to live in the here and now isn’t going to turn your life into some ideal fairy tale where everything works out perfectly and people live happily ever after. No. But I promise you – it can make your life an awful lot easier and happier! Wouldn’t you rather have the latter? Isn’t it better to have a “tool-box” of ways to help yourself so you can feel empowered instead of believing there’s nothing you can do?
Please don’t think that I personally get it right all the time. I don’t! But when I look back at myself 20 or so years ago, boy! can I see a difference! Back then, I was depressed, anxious, negative, drinking too much, smoking too much and with very little self-esteem, because I was so critical of myself. But I found the courage to ask for help, and I found it through books, teachers and some skilled and compassionate therapists. And I have turned it around!!
For some of you, this may sound like old hat. You’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Right? But it’s good to remind yourself of the basics because you can always build upon work you’ve done and refine it and get it better still. That monkey mind can trick you into complacency and it’s never a good idea to allow that to happen. Complacency is the enemy of action. It gets you into a rut and stops you from being open to change. Change is part of life. You can’t live without change! Once you were a tiny baby – now look at you! Isn’t that change?? From little acorns great oaks do grow and all that….Yes?
So, why not decide that 2013 is the year you renew your commitment to yourself? Watch that monkey mind and curb its devious ways. Go to sleep each night remembering all those little things (and the big ones, too) that you are grateful for. Keep working at those negative thought patterns. Take time to meditate each day, press the pause button and give yourself some still time.
Oh….and trust in the Universe! You’ll be surprised at the gifts it can bring you!!