Tricks of the Mindful, Part I

There’s a personal, family situation that’s bothering me at the moment – swimming around and around in my head against my will, despite my having decided numerous times not to confront the issue. A few moments free to mull and my mind inevitably ends up there, rehashing an extremely uncomfortable conversation that took place a few months ago, drafting emails and SMSes that I will never send, scripting phone calls I will never make, and imagining responses that will never eventuate.

With the dispute itself months in the past, it’s no longer my relative that’s making me feel bad; now it’s my mind – dredging up uncomfortable feelings over and over again in some sort of demented, hopeless effort to make me feel better. Such is the mind; we are largely powerless to control the thoughts it entertains. But I do believe we can nudge it in the right direction, and that’s what I’ve decided to do with this little battle.

The first step – as is often the case – is awareness. Every time I notice the chatter in question – whether I catch it a second or a few minutes in – I note it. I mentally say to myself “thinking about Vanessa*” And surprisingly, the effects have been almost immediate. By naming the occurrence, I am straight away distanced. It becomes clear that it’s my mind – and not ‘me’ – which is going over and over things, and I am able to walk away from the noise in a way that I haven’t been even vaguely successful in doing so far. It totally, magically deflates the process, takes the pain out of the mental churning.

The bottom line is that I do want my relationship with Vanessa to be better, to get back to normal. After literally hours of talking, thinking, and writing, I’ve decided not to do anything further about our disagreement and just get on with things, but my mind hasn’t caught up. So inevitably, thoughts of the conflict keep arising. Rinse and repeat – I note the self-chatter and it simmers down, again.

But this noting alone won’t be enough to make things right. I still need to find a way to feel better about it all – to cultivate lovingkindness, rather than hurt and anger, into my thoughts and feelings about her.

Here’s the plan: Every time the thoughts in question come up and I shine a light on them, I will add in a conscious, positive thought. Something about how much we care about each other, and about her good (though misguided) intentions. I’m hoping I can gradually take the sting out of the conflict by massaging my mind in this way, so that eventually the thoughts can just flicker by like the host of other crazy shit that goes through my head, without getting stuck on the big screen, so to speak. And in time, they’ll be gone, or at least barely noticeable in the babble of everyday life.

Stay tuned for Part II to see how it goes.


*I don’t know anyone called Vanessa; I totally made up that name. The rest of the post is true, though.

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