Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Untangling Knots in the Mind

Have you ever tried to untangle a mess of yarn or string?

Tangled Strings, Tangled Yarn

I've had a lot of practice with that.

In 7th and 8th grade, I made marionettes and did puppet shows at children's birthday parties. From time to time the strings of the marionettes would get tangled.

While my 2 friends who assisted me could never untangle one, I found that if I increased the space between, I could untangle any snarl.

I forgot about this until I started knitting a few years ago. When my yarn would tangle, I remembered the marionettes, and used the same technique.

Tangled Mind

It occurred to me that untangling a snarl in the mind or emotions is solved in a similar way. Make space around the thought, allow it to breathe.

How do you do that?
Instead of running away from it, or pushing it down, or pretending it isn't there, just let it be there. And be bigger than it.

Remember that there is something much bigger than you or the problem/ thought/ emotion. That Something bigger, that Higher Power, is infinite, so it can easily contain anything and everything. And if the Infinite can keep all of our planets orbiting in place, it can certainly handle any problem in your life.

How About You?

What is your favorite way to untangle your emotions and thoughts?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Your Fundamental Desire for Wholeness

In one of her talks, I love how Buddhist nun Pema Chodron speaks about what she calls our fundamental desire for wholeness.

She explains a beautiful process for managing our thoughts and emotions when we are "hooked" by something in our life that causes us to suffer or feel bad in some way.

It's the Little Things

She is not referring to major life trauma. This is a practice for returning to peace of mind when some little everyday upset grabs your attention and hijacks your day. You know, all that little petty annoyances that can add up until you want to scream, or toss your computer out the window.

The Antidote

Pema Chodron's steps to return to wholeness:

  1. Recognize the shenpa (suffering)
  2. Refrain from biting the hook
  3. Relax into it
  4. Resolve to keep practicing.

Try It Anywhere Any Time

This is a practice that you can do without anyone around you knowing it. 
So you can use it at work, at the grocery store, anywhere you get activated.

How About You?

What is your favorite way to let go of the little things?
Did you try this and did it work?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I'd Rather Be a Hammer than a Nail

Do you know the song lyric "I'd rather be a hammer than a nail"?
Simon and Garfunkel made it popular in El Condor Pasa.

How can we feel more like the hammer than the nail?

Or more like the bug and less like the windshield?

It's all in our point of view.

Negative Thinking is Innate

According to Rick Hanson. PhD, the brain has a built-in negativity bias.
Why? It's for survival. When we think of the world in terms of carrots and sticks, Dr Hanson says that while carrots are great, if we don't learn about the stick that could kill us, then we never get another carrot. Ever.

That's a big incentive, and also the reason that the people with brains that noticed the negative were the ones who survived long enough to pass on their genes.

So just a few negative experiences of futility or helplessness when we are young and our brains are forming, can result in some long-lasting deep-seated beliefs about what is possible or safe or appropriate.

We Need the Good

To overcome a negative experience, we need a 5:1 ratio of good to bad experiences. That goes for our relationships too. So try to have 5 times more positive interactions with your friends and loved ones every day than negative ones.

So praise your child's accomplishment, compliment your significant other, notice the good things about other people and say so when it's appropriate.

This goes for yourself too!

Notice the good things about you, not just the things you don't like. Instead of getting down on yourself when you make a mistake, realize that you did the best you could at the time. Be gentle with yourself. And then ask yourself how you might do it differently next time. That's a much more effective way to deal with it.

Have a Gratitude Journal

Writing down 5 to 10 things that you are grateful for can change your life. Being grateful helps you enjoy the good that you already have in your life. And that helps you notice even more of the good all around you.

If you don't believe me, try it.

And if you don't know what to be grateful for, start with these things we often take for granted:

  • Running hot and cold water
  • Indoor plumbing
  • Eyesight
  • A roof over your head
  • Enough food to eat

How About You?

Do you dwell on the negative?
Do you have a way to remember the good in your life?