“Randall, Randall, are you listening to me?”
“What honey, what did you say?”
“You weren’t listening to me.”
“Sorry baby, I was someplace else.”
This is often a typical exchange between my wife and I. I am happy to say that it does not happen as often as it once did, but it still happens. Still comes up now and then. I have a tendency to get pulled deep into my thoughts. Sometimes I find myself so lost in thought that I am not aware of the sensation of my feet walking on the ground or the breathing process that is going on just under my nose. Again, I have fallen into an emotional funk because I have been spending the past thirty minutes lost in negative thoughts.
Some people are blessed. Going deep in to their heads is a pleasant experience. They are able to get lost in thought and not feel any negative consequences. Their thought process is generally constructive, useful and positive. Their thoughts are not filled with judgments, apocalyptic scenarios and other content that depresses, enrages or scares the shit out of them. Living inside their heads is a friendly experience.
Even though being lost in thought, whether it is positive or negative, takes us away from the present moment of our life (and after all, mindfulness practice is all about learning how to live in the present moment more often than not), at least some people have the good fortune of having thoughts that are conducive to mental and physical health. However, for the vast majority of us I would be willing to bet the small amount of money in my savings account that this is not the case.
Anxiety, depression, relationship issues, ANGER, addictions, stress, lack of a feeling of success in life, lack of ambition and hyperactivity are all secondary states. They are the result of getting lost in a head that is not a friendly place. A head that is filled with one negative, fear or judgment filled thought after the next. A thought process that is overly focused on what is wrong or what could go wrong at any second. Unfortunately for these people- living (unless intoxicated or on psychiatric medications) is more often than not an unpleasant experience.
But there is an alternative.
Practicing mindfulness has taught me how to have conversations with myself that go something like this:
“Everything good in your life can vanish in a second.”
“Death is always right next to you.”
“You have not succeeded at your dream.”
“It sucks what you have to do today.”
“I don’t want to do it.”
“I wish I had made it as an artist or writer.”
“You need to write more, stop being so lazy.”
“You have failed because you don’t make a lot of money.”
“You don’t have the freedom to do what you want to do.”
“I’ve failed in life.”
“Maybe you are sick?”
“This sucks. I don’t want to do it!”
“Randall, you are currently caught up in a lot of negative thinking.”
“Stop, take a breath.”
“Granted you are not Jim Jarmusch or Haruki Murakami, but that is ok.”
“Your life is good as it is.”
“Can you hear those sounds?”
“Can you feel those sensations in your body?”
“Can you smile?”
“It is all good man. You are ok just as you are.”
“Just slow down.”
“Breathe in and breathe out.”
“Everything is fine.”
“Let it go.”
“Just be here now man. That is all that matters.”
“Ok, I’m good now.”
“Randall! Randall! Are you listening to me?”
“Yeah, yeah, sorry. I am here. What were you saying?”
“(Sigh) Will you please take out the trash? It’s starting to stink.”
“Yeah, sure babe. Sorry- I will do it now.”