Tricks of the Mindful, Part II

Several weeks after writing about my efforts to mindfully release some painful thoughts, I’m pleased to report marked success in the next phase of my little operation. Whereas a few weeks ago I was really suffering over a crisis with my relative, Vanessa, I now feel much better about the situation, and have even managed a calm conversation with her to share some of my feelings – without pointing fingers or dredging up the issue.

To recap, the first step was to mindfully note whenever the thoughts in question arose. This helped to distance myself from the mental churning, and even stopped thoughts dead in their tracks at times. To neutralize the threat altogether, I planned to cultivate some “lovingkindness” or compassionate thoughts – by consciously reminding myself of how much I love Vanessa and her family, every time the topic arose in my mind.

Full disclosure: In the meantime, some events transpired that helped put things in perspective. Birth, death and war – would you believe. The big things that have a habit of making us realize how little the little things really are.

In any case, back to the second step, the lovingkindness plan: Each time I notice a thought about Vanessa, I note it as above, and then I take a deep, slow inhalation. As I inhale, I imagine I’m breathing in love and kindness – simple as that. Yes – it feels a bit contrived, I’ll admit. But it’s working. I’m noticing more and more that the thought is followed by the realization of it – rather than seconds or minutes of stewing angrily – and then almost immediately, feelings of forgiveness and kindness start to bubble up before I even start my dorky love breathing.

On top of these changes, I’ve noticed a pleasing by-product. Little by little, my mind is starting to follow these simple steps for all sorts of scenarios – before getting sucked into going over unpleasant situations. Instead, I’m noticing a spark of looking for the good in people, an almost undetectable deep inhalation of lovingkindness. They’re just glimpses of progress at this point, but I’m optimistic that they will grow.

Ultimately, I know I can’t control my thoughts – that understanding is one of the main gifts that I’ve received from mindfulness meditation. But I can choose how I react to them. And more than that – I can create the conditions for thoughts which serve me well to thrive – and work out ways to minimize the damage caused by thoughts would do me harm.

Peace of mind, here I come. Piece of cake (almost).

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