When I had health problems in college I took a year off to heal. I moved back home, worked full time, and tutored adorable twin girls. I remember once, their mother asked me to lead a private meditation session with the three of them. I’m no yogi – far from it. But I realized I did have a grain of wisdom to share after all: The mind is an excitable puppy, and you can train it with confident, gentle persistence.
The problem is, it’s easy to know something and much harder to be that thing. I know I shouldn’t eat that extra cookie, but I usually do. You can have a full blown internal back-and-forth about it, and your mind can convince you that it’s no big deal, or you deserve it, or you’ll make up for it later – or (my favorite) life’s for living after all, isn’t it?
It’s so true though.. life is for living. I don’t regret eating that extra cookie. I just know that I want to be healthy and treat my body with respect. Someday I’d like not to eat that cookie. And someday after then, I’d like for it not to even be a temptation. And that takes interest, time, and a healthy dose of confident, gentle persistence.
Cookies aren’t the only temptations in life. And convincing yourself to eat those delicious little morsels of culinary sunshine isn’t the only thing the mind is capable of. Once I was driving around, listening to music, and I could feel grumpiness oozing off of me. I silently asked myself why.
Why am I grumpy? I feel so unsatisfied.
Why do I feel unsatisfied? Well, I don’t know… things are going well. The weather’s great. It’s the weekend. I don’t know why I’m unsatisfied! For no reason?
Suddenly I could feel the healthy pull of gravity on my limbs and my whole body relaxed. Why do I feel unsatisfied?
My tone had changed from confusion and anger to amusement I guess. There was some magic in asking myself those questions and answering myself honestly. When I realized I didn’t know why I was unsatisfied, somehow I felt just a little bit better. It took another day or so for that feeling to find its way out of my skin. Once it did, I realized that the more I can manage to practice letting go like this, the more I’ll feel a mental and emotional freedom.
From a certain perspective, it doesn’t even matter what makes you feel unsatisfied, grumpy, angry, whatever. Maybe you even have some legitimate reasons – like your roommate woke you up at 3am on a weeknight or someone triggered some raw emotions by reminding you of your childhood trauma. (In that case, there’s usually some kind of solution – and you can takes steps to resolve things.) Or, maybe you have some unknown influences, like your body feels off because of hormones or because you haven’t exercised to sweat those toxins out in two or three weeks. Maybe you have a knot in your back or a nagging headache that you didn’t realize was making you irritable, and suddenly you’re in a fight with someone over nothing.
Regardless of who or what makes me upset, and regardless of whether I know what’s making me upset, it doesn’t help me to stay in that mental space. It makes me, and the people around me, feel worse. Having that internal dialogue and practicing to let go really make a difference, and I’d like to try doing those things more often.