Picture this. You are pushing your shopping cart down the aisle and you come upon an item that you want.
You KNOW you shouldn’t buy the item that has the most fat and calories so you attempt to strike a compromise with yourself.
First, you look around to see if anyone else is in the aisle as you prepare to have a silent conversation inside that little noggin of yours.
Yes! The coast is clear. So you begin by saying to yourself, “OK, look, we’ll buy the yummy cookie dough supreme but only the reduced calorie version. Deal?”
Your inner child gets so freaking excited that you are saying yes, that she LEAPS out of the cart, does a happy dance, thanks you repeatedly from the bottom of her heart and then jumps back in.
All the while, watching every move you make as you reach out and take hold of that oh so divinely anticipated item.
The above description exemplifies how you looked for an option that allowed you to have what you really wanted without all of the guilt that comes with truly indulging in it.
It doesn’t matter whether you are grocery shopping, car shopping, buying a cup of coffee or contemplating purchasing that insanely priced pair of shoes that you have been drooling over; we always look for ways to give ourselves a reprieve from the guilt we do feel and could potentially feel when we think about something.
This is where the practice of mindfulness comes in.
Your mind searches for an acceptable way of thinking that justifies the what you do. For example, when you purchase the following:
A) Pint of Ice cream. You say, “Oh, I can take the carton of Ben and Jerry’s on the couch with me while I watch re-runs of Orange is the New Black because I bought the reduced calorie version. And, If I take really small spoonfuls of it, then it’s not like I’m eating a lot!”
B) Reduced fat block of cheddar cheese. C’mon, you know the one where you have twice the recommended amount of it because the the label says, “1/3 less fat”. The thing is, that double portion equals the caloric intake of the kind you REALLY wanted!
C) Vegetarian three cheese pizza. You know the one, where you eat half of the pizza instead of recommended, single serving because it has “vegetables” on it instead of pepperoni? Yeah, that one!
So, too, does our mind search for relief when we have thoughts that make us want to find a compromise between what we want to think about and what we actually think about.
It’s not easy to begin a practice of mindfulness.
In fact, it sounds really weird and feels even weirder!
After all, what is this thing called mindfulness anyway?
It’s pretty simple.
Here is what it is.
- You take a moment to breathe and connect with your thoughts.( Yes, all of them. Even the weird and unrelated ones!)
- You notice all of thoughts. (One after the other after the other after the other. Just notice them.)
- You assume a neutral position in relation to those thoughts. They hold no meaning or feeling for you. They are just there and then they go as quickly as they came.
- You welcome additional thoughts without judgement, criticism, and objection. (Because you know that unless you are Deepak Chopra, (and there is only ONE version of that guy) your mind is going to be going a million miles and hour ,with TONS of thoughts streaming in.)
- Notice what thoughts induce positive and negative feelings. (This is where the ole pen and paper come in handy so you can jot these little suckers down.)
- Keep the thoughts that produce good feelings and find a way to eliminate the ones that don’t.
Not so complicated, right?
Being aware of your thoughts really isn’t tough.
In fact, you are more aware of your thoughts than you think!
If I were to ask you to give yourself 60 seconds to write down EVERY SINGLE THOUGHT you had you would be writing some pretty weird sh*t!
Why? Because your mind is constantly going.
You’d write things like:
” I have no idea what to write. Oh, I have to pee! Frog, tree, my nose itches. Man, I have gas. OK, I need to concentrate on this. I am supposed to be noticing my thoughts right now and writing them down. I am noticing what I am thinking and yes, I am thiking. And, now I am talking to myself. What kind of weird sh*t is that?! Man, I didn’t realize how much I talk to myself. If anyone knew that I was talking to myself they would think I was totally wacko!. Is this the right thing to do? Ok, gotta get gas in my car. Oh and I need to go by the grocery.Man! What if I had someone who would run my errands FOR me! I could do that if I won the lottery! OMG! I can’t imagine winning the lottery! Can you imagine what we could do with all of that money! OMG! OK, how much did we win? 10 million? Awesome. Although after taxes it’s really like five million. So, I’d really want to win like, 15-20 million. This way I wouldn’t have a problem with the taxes being taken out and I would give some to my family, buy a new house, my dream car, pay of my debt, support some charities, invest and then, I dunno travel maybe! Man, I don’t want to go to the grocery store! I really should buy a ticket. You can’t win if you don’t play! I’m to tired! I wish I had someone who could run errands for me. Oh, I wonder what is on Ellen today. WAIT! I’m supposed to be doing this thing. Oh snap! What time is it? How many seconds do I have left. OK! phew! Just like 10 more seconds. I wonder what I will think about in the next 10 seconds. Oh, I should call my friend Deb in CA. Oh, arm pit scratch and oh, wait! There is comes, the sneeze! Oh man! Three in a row! I never sneeze three times in a row! Where’s the Kleenex? OK, five seconds now. I just want to let the time run out. Oh man! So glad THAT’s over! That was the longest sixty seconds in the world!”
It doesn’t shut up or shut off AND….. works very hard at keeping you from remaining focused.
The biggest challenge in practicing mindfulness doesn’t come from being cognizant of your thoughts, it’s realizing how the thoughts make you feel.
THIS is KEY when you practice mindfulness.
Noticing what thoughts encourage what feelings.
Since we “go to” our feelings, then it would make sense that the thoughts that we stream across our mind’s t.v. screen completely contribute to how we feel.
AND….. given that feelings and thoughts rendezvous incestuously and consistently with each other, you can safely assume that what you feel determines the quality of your life.
Feel good about yourself and your quality of life will be out of this world.
Feel bad about yourself, well…. your quality of life will be in the stinkiest, smelliest, and most disgusting dumpster you could ever find!
Mindfulness is really a cool process.
I teach my clients how to mindfulness to stop beating themselves up, even when they don’t realize that they are. ( You know, that unconscious loop of disapproval that constantly plays in your head,where you immediately feel like you have been convicted of a crime even before you commit it?)
All you have to do is just begin to become aware of what you think and then notice how particular thoughts evoke particular feelings.
If thinking something allows you to feel good. Keep that thought.
If thinking something else produces an undesirable emotion, then either truly forgive it and let it go or work through it so it is gone for good.
So, there really IS such a thing as “guilt-free thinking.”
It all comes down to the deal you make with yourself and how much of the extra calories and fat from your thinking that you are willing to carry around with you in your life on a regular basis.
Start practicing mindfulness when you go thought shopping and choose the “guilt-free” thinking option.
You’ll end up making more room in your life’s cart for the really good stuff!
In love and light,