The geography of mindful thought.
This article is courtesy of guest contributor Jennifer Ellen Haydon of Tacoma, Washington. Post image cropped from a beautiful photo by her talented husband, Scott Haydon Photography.
Do you ever feel like you are stuck in a rut of thought pattern? Like someone pushed the repeat button and you just cannot get past this idea, plan, thought? You are a record, skipping. As a Super Type-A Worrier turned Mom, I do. I realized at some point that a lot of my thought patterns are circular and that they focus on: safety/well-being, happiness, maintenance, and guilt. Are my kids safe? Am I happy? Are THEY happy? Do I have meals planned? Is everyone fed? Are the bills paid? What about the car? Our teeth!? What if all of the household appliance break down at the same time? Am I doing everything right? Or at least the best I can? What is the best I can do?
This realization that I am preoccupied with the day-to-day litany of physical life led me to the idea that I am not allowing space for the kind of thinking I'd actually benefit from as a human being. We all know that worrying doesn't fix anything. Allowing my brain to follow the paths of worry and perfectionism doesn't lead me to the places I want to be. In fact, worry strengthens a geography that is limiting, like a maze without an exit.
A certain amount of time does need to be spent on the everyday routine, keeping us on track. A familiar and well-traveled trip that we take often and that is necessary. We have to navigate the basics of life, and it behooves us to do that with ease. I think we sometimes forget, and need to be reminded of, how much we love to experience new things. There is a certain comfort in staying close to what we are used to but there is a depth to adventure that we cannot deny feeds the soul. I think this is why even in the urban wilderness of everyday living we choose to relax via channels of movie, book, and music. We find ways to escape the weariness and physicality of parenting or working by watching others journey in a way we are currently unable. We delve into other people's endeavors in hopes of jumpstarting our own creative thought process.
I read an article recently that compared the brain to a garden. The article declared that we have a way of controlling the growth and well-being of our own thought processes. The thoughts we spend time cultivating become the thoughts that are well-nourished, planted, thriving. The thoughts we want to rid ourselves of are pruned through neglect, or in this case, the act of no longer thinking them. This automatically lends us to the idea that we can create a positive mind garden by thinking about good things; things that make us happy, and challenge us. We can trim back the negative from our mind garden by excluding negative, nagging, and worrisome thoughts and not allowing them a place to grow.
So how do we create real change in the mapping of our own patterns? We recognize the negative or unhelpful thoughts as they happen and we choose to think about something else. We find a way out of the maze. We strive to consciously choose the types of thoughts we want to have and to create a new terrain that involves mountains, watering holes, and a small quiet space where we can always see the sun rising up.
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