November 13, 2016

How to Jump Off Unhelpful Thought Trains.

Screenshot from a movie Reality Bites (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDYGo0UgIVM)

I turned the keys in my ignition, once again talking to my old beauty, an old Element. She roared to a start, and I heaved a sigh of relief.

As I clunked out of our alley, I rubbed the steering wheel, shaking my head at the sound of her clackety parts. Determined to carry this dream ride of mine well beyond 300,000 miles (I’m tip-toeing to that edge), I am always happy to see her start and obligingly take me to my next destination.

Squeaking to a stop at the light by my house, I see a slick black sports car pull up behind me. A longtime favorite model of my husband’s, I admire the vehicle’s smooth lines in my rearview mirror. My eyes glance down to the plates and in some amazing act of reversal/backward reading I am able to decipher the customized words: RLT BTS.

My blinker is flickering and I’m turning left. My thoughts go something like this, “Realllity…B…ites. Reality Bites. Reality bites? In that car? Wow…” and then, I’m too ashamed and careful to openly share the nosedive my thoughts took within a few split seconds.

It was something along the lines of comparison, envy and judgement.

And then I stopped.

I mean, not the car, I had to keep rolling down Main Street, but within half a block of this cacophony of thoughts, I paused and noticed, “Wow… look at how you assumed her reality doesn’t blow, sting or bite in comparison to yours—because of a car. A physical object.” I began to notice the train my thoughts had erratically jumped on and I derailed it.

Simply in the noticing, I was able to adjust those thoughts that weren’t doing anyone any good.

The whole experience got me thinking about the season we are in. The inevitable concoctions of emotion and feelings we may encounter in light of traditions and navigating familial relationships, or solitude.

What pauses and shifts can we take, individually, in the quiet of our daily patterns, to stop and see the trains of thought we’re getting carried away by? What if we can choose them with wisdom, with radical love? Could we choose, in the midst of it all, to live with an open heart?

Yes. I believe we can.

I often hold space for people who are struck by feeling powerless, out of control. Many and most circumstances in our lives are out of our control. Our power lies not in circumstance, but in how we choose to respond to that experience; our power is in the fact that we can cultivate our thoughts. We can decide how and where we place our focus.

When stepping outside the chatter of the mind in the coming weeks, we can begin with a compassion practice called, “Just Like Me.” In gatherings with full tables, it may look something like this:

Just like me, you want to experience peace at this table.
Just like me, you want to feel connection—safe in this home.
Just like me, you want to be heard. Loved. Just like me. 

By the end of the third block my thoughts had shifted from prickly and caustic to peaceful. I let the train of self-judgement pass, as in my line of work as a mindful living trainer and yoga teacher, I could have felt embarrassed by my tendencies and willingness to turn into assumptions. Nope, I lent myself some grace and ease; softened the edges of my thoughts and sent the woman in my rearview mirror a little light as we parted through the roundabout. After all, I didn’t know if she needed it or not.

What if her reality bites? What if she lives—like all of us—a fractured story, riddled with difficulty and challenges? Just like me?

Who knows what her reality holds, I’m only the master of mine.


Author: Betsy Delzer

Image: Screenshot from a movie Reality Bites

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

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