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Author’s note: Mindfulness doesn’t necessarily mean positivity, or avoiding negativity, or “contrast” as I prefer to call it. Contrast, after all, is what helps us to clarify the areas in which we wish to evolve. Mindfulness, to me, is about being conscious or aware of our thought patterns. The choice to redirect our thoughts in a more positive direction is born from mindfulness.
Writing my way to mindfulness.
All my life, I have been an intermittent writer.
As an introvert, it has often been easier to present my feelings through written word than to physically voice them; however, writing as therapy has mostly taken a back seat to the other responsibilities of life, like career and family. Sometimes, though, the need to write is like reaching for a lifeline when you fall overboard.
This past year I lost my dad. The grief was vast and dark. It swooped into my life and perched atop a mountain of existing relationship stress like a dragon settling in to protect its hoard.
Try as I might, I could not escape the feeling of being buried under that mountain. The pain of loss was crippling; the burden of putting on a “brave face” and continuing to function each day was exhaustingly heavy, and through it all, my marriage continued to show signs of imminent collapse.
To pull myself from the depths of despair, I turned once again to writing, hoping to clarify my focus and purge some of the emotional poison festering under my resident dragon.
I poured out my feelings onto the page—anger, sadness, bitterness, heartbreak—knowing it could take the assault. I wanted to drain the negatives, fix all the problems, and begin to feel gratitude again.
What I discovered instead was that the longer I analyzed the problems, the more they seemed to compound. What was intended to be an exorcism was having the opposite effect, and I found myself feeling increasingly hopeless. Frustrated and dejected about the direction of my life, I turned to books, an ever-present refuge for me.
Perusing the local bookstore one afternoon, I was drawn to the title Ask and it is Given by Esther Hicks. I pulled it from the shelf, and it fell open to the following:
“By the powerful Universal Law of Attraction, you draw to you the essence of whatever you are predominantly thinking about. So if you are predominantly thinking about the things that you desire, your life experience reflects those things. And, in the same way, if you are predominantly thinking about what you do not want, your life experience reflects those things.
…Nothing can occur in your life experience without your invitation of it through your thought.”
For the first time in months, I felt a moment of clarity: rather than writing pages and pages dissecting my problems and searching for solutions, I would instead focus on imagining the absence of those problems. I would write about the reality I dreamed of, taking care to detail the delicious feelings that would accompany the realization of that dream.
To set my intention, I began each morning with a meditation practice, being aware of my feelings and gently redirecting whenever I felt myself veering into negative thought patterns. Then I would spend time writing about all the positive aspects of my life—self-care, supportive friends, caring family, the glorious sunset the night before, and the beauty of the flowers in the window of the local florist shop—anything that fostered feelings of warmth and well-being.
As I practiced writing mindfully, I became more aware of mindfulness spilling over into other areas of my life. In an amazingly short period of time, my perspective began to shift as I practiced tuning in to my thoughts throughout the day and purposefully thinking about things that made me feel good.
While my problems didn’t disappear, they were no longer my primary focus. Because of this shift, their weight gradually began to lift until I no longer felt buried, and they no longer seemed insurmountable.
The gratitude I had been seeking came more naturally, and even the dragon and I learned to coexist.
For those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, grief becomes a permanent co-traveler through life. There is no truth to the idea that “time heals” when it comes to this grief; time cannot restore that which was lost.
But with the shift in perspective that accompanied my mindful writing journey, I was able to acknowledge my grief from a softer, gentler place, as if viewing it through a misty veil.
I no longer fed the dragon with my anger, bitterness, and sadness.
Instead, from my more positive perspective, I was able to approach my grief with a sense of acceptance, understanding that it is a part of me going forward. Now we sit quietly beside each other and sift through memories with fondness and appreciation.
As humans we tend to complicate things.
Today, I am still a bit surprised at the simplicity of the idea that what we think about is what we draw to ourselves. What we want and what we don’t want are just opposite ends of the same thought line, so we just need to be mindful to which end our focus is directed.
When people hear my story, they sometimes respond with, “That sounds so vague. What did you do about your problems? Give me details!” They can’t accept that it could be as simple as shifting your thought patterns.
Don’t get me wrong—I still have problems. The main difference is they are no longer what I dwell on, and as a result of that one small change, every day feels more positive, and my problems don’t look so much like mountains anymore.
I continue my practice of mindful writing, inspired by the ripples of positivity that result from the simple action of thinking and writing about good-feeling thoughts, thankful that the process has helped me to move through the darkness and to look forward, each day, to the possibility of joy.