When I was sick and the medication wasn’t working, it felt like almost my entire body was broken and bruised and my torso was being twisted and stabbed. Everything hurt and I couldn’t sleep for more than a half hour at a time for a month because that’s how often I had to go to the bathroom (no matter what I ate or didn’t eat – believe me, I tried not eating).
But something that I realized while doing body scan meditations was that my toes actually didn’t hurt. They felt swollen, but they didn’t hurt.
So I learned that if I could focus hard enough on how my toes were feeling and what sensations I could feel (the air, the temperature, the ground or grass or carpet or water, the blood flow through them…), the rest of the pain would fade away ever so slightly so I could make it through the day.
Today I thankfully don’t have to focus as hard as I can on my toes just to make it through the day, but I learned something extremely valuable from that experience.
It’s natural for the human mind to focus on the negative. If early humans didn’t look for what was wrong, they probably would have been eaten by a lion. And while noticing and fixing problems (or potential problems) is important today too, in general, the times where those thoughts are actually HELPFUL are very limited.
It is also important to make the distinction that, just because a thought is TRUE, it doesn’t mean that it is helpful to fixate on. For example, with health we often focus on the things we want to change (whether that’s our actual health or our physical appearance). While it is extremely important to notice when there is something that isn’t working right in your body so that you can work on improving it, fixating on the problem is (contrary to popular belief) NOT helpful. So often we think that if we don’t constantly hold the things that we want to change in our heads, that we won’t work hard to improve. But that’s just not true.
There is a huge difference between “My stomach hurts so bad, this is awful” and “I think eating x makes my stomach pain worse. I will avoid that in the future to see if it improves.” They both notice the problem but the focus is completely different. The first focuses on the problem (which may be true but isn’t helpful) and the second focuses on the solution (which is actually helpful). Make a note of it and move on to making the most out of the rest of your day. 😉
If you are on this blog, you probably share in my passion for travel and adventure. As we are collectively in a situation where travel is limited, what can you notice about your neighborhood? Is there a local park you’ve never been to? If you’ve been there, what have you never noticed before? How beautiful are those clouds or the way the sun is hitting those trees?
Are you feeling stifled and like you’re longing for a sense of freedom? When was the last time you really got lost in a good book?
Are you wanting to work towards some bigger goals than you have ever reached before? What thoughts are HELPFUL and are going to inspire you to take positive action?
It’s not that the other thoughts don’t exist or that fears don’t pop up – you can still notice them and thank your brain for trying to keep you safe… and then actively choose the thoughts that help you get what you want out of this experience.
Just like surfing, as you practice, you get better and better at rolling over top of the waves that you want to let pass, and at capitalizing on the ones that are going to bring you on the best ride.
No matter where you are, choose to focus on the beautiful.
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