When I got my Psychology degree back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth in 1999, I could have never truly known how much the knowledge I learned while in my classes would still come back to me 20 years later to ponder and reflect upon two kids and 23 years of marriage later.
William James is one of those psychologists that I still think about as I am on this lifelong journey of being more mindful and ultimately learning to detach from things, experiences and people. I have learned that attachment is our main cause of suffering. When we accept and enjoy the ebb and flow of life, the coming and going of it all….the impermanence…it is more natural to be grateful for the time that it existed in our lives rather than mourn when it is not there anymore. Feeling of loss will dissipate when the realization hits that nothing earthly is forever and it was not truly meant to even be a permanent fixture in our lives to begin with. So why do we try and hold on to things, experiences and people so tightly? They all are just a beautiful piece of our story and not meant to be the main character.
I was recently told by my awesome meditation mentor that highly sensitive people (yep, that is me), people that feel and care deeply, tend to listen to that inner voice more than other people that can more easily let things go, like my wonderful husband. As a result, when incoming thoughts are loving and kind, all is right with the world but when those thoughts are negative, over exaggerated or self destructive, then we can feel like the world is truly spinning out of control in that moment. Learning how to consistently foster loving kindness within our minds and hearts is imperative, not just for us but for all those we love around us.
Life is a beautiful river, constantly widening, constricting, with flowing water that can increase to break neck speeds one day and then be a soft flowing lazy river the next. Following the feelings of gratefulness for things in our lives, we can then move on…stress, anxiety, apprehension, fear, anger, resentment…it all goes away and relaxation, peace, hope, faith, and joy replace them.
Mr. James said that “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” Wow! Drop the mic right? Even when our emotions are at their most heightened state, we still have a choice as to how we will respond and which thoughts we will allow to rule our next word spoken and the next action we take. We just have to train ourselves to recognize those unhealthy thoughts or the thoughts that are not nurturing our spirit for what they really are and then walk away from them…however, a word of caution I have learned: Do not run from them trying to quickly pretend that the thought never existed because thoughts come from a root place in our spirit and should not be ignored. However, the time we devote to analyzing and processing those thoughts is another story. If they are bringing us down and affecting our actions and words in a way that are negative to ourselves or those around us, then we need to walk away from them.
Science now can easily show the biggest skeptics that when we choose happiness and choose thoughts that will nourish our soul rather than tear it down, when those neurons fire in our brain, then they become connected and wired together making it easier and easier the next time those dramatic monkeys try to enter into our thoughts to smile at them and walk away, leaving them to swing on the maze of branches of negativity alone.
Practice with me today. Practice choosing joy, gratefulness and hope even when your coworker sneered at your presentation, a family member said something that hurt your heart but you know they didn’t really mean it or a friendship simply evolves into a different place as seasons change…how we think about everything is a choice so choose your thoughts wisely for your spirit’s sake. Take the reins on how you will wake up, roll out of bed and start the new day on this amazing journey called Life. You are more powerful than you think you are.
“Human beings, by changing their inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives..” – William James, psychologist/philosopher
Until next time, Namaste.
Photo Credit: Thousand Island Lakes, CA; Jaime Adams, 2016