Do You Strike The Match?
Ok, Jeff. What are you talking about? When I start my charcoal grill, I inevitably strike a match. Why should I be concerned about this? Matches are good in this context-LOL!
This is of course a figurative statement. What I’m referring to is when you are trying to keep your anxiety and stress at a distance. You’ve meditated and you’re feeling quite blissful. Then, your dog comes in and jumps up on your lap. You don’t explode in anger but you do get a little miffed. You start a dialog (maybe internal, maybe external) where you try to dissipate the anger by going over what just happened. The feeling does not go away but you just blow it off.
Then, something else goes not as planned. Remembering your vow to remain calm you address the situation. This time, you slip in a little prediction about what will happen next. It’s not a positive intention either. Something like “I guess the day wouldn’t be completed unless X happened.” Now, you’re not only feeling the sting from the negative thing that happened but you’re setting yourself up for another bad thing to happen. Guess what? As you predicted, it does.
Now, your mad and you can feel your mindset shifting from neutral to negative. What do you think the chance is the rest of the day will go well from this point?
That’s what I call “striking the match”. Letting the little things that happen to us every day accumulate and gain momentum. I had this happen to me yesterday and I think it will help to tell you the story.
Yesterday, I was trying to get some work done in the morning before I had to take my wife for a routine test. I’ve let it be no secret that I have anxious tendencies I inherited from my mother. I wasn’t on edge or anything. I just wasn’t as comfortable as I am now. I was dreading the drive (we have had some bad weather and we live where we don’t get much of it) and the waiting. So, when my computer would cooperate with me, I started with little bickering with it. No big deal, right? I got back to work until some other little thing happened. I quickly realized my reaction to it was already disproportionately angry. It was as though within just a few minutes I had gone from neutral to almost full-blown anxious. Luckily, some of the training I’ve been doing lately helped out and I was able to put away the match before I couldn’t even function.
What did I do? Let me tell you how I did it.
HeadSpace To The Rescue
I’ve been a member of the online meditation training program, HeadSpace (not an affiliate link) for many months. I’ve done a number of different series, as they call them, since I started. I’ve been very pleased overall with the progress I’ve made and was particularly pleased yesterday. Let me explain.
One of the cornerstones of the the HeadSpace programs is making sure you stop and recall the feeling you had while you were doing the training. The idea is that you do this regardless of what’s happening during the day. Just randomly spread out throughout the day. Close your eyes and after taking a few deep breaths, remember how you felt during the exercise. I found out it also works on demand when you’re experiencing challenges to your mental state. Plus, they have a mobile app as well.
Right at the point where I could feel the anger growing, I took my breaths, did the quick visualization and I was able to get out of that funk before it ran away from me. The match was put away!
Don’t Let The Little Things Become Big Things
I know this sounds cliche and corny and obvious but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. Although I highly recommend checking out HeadSpace, my main point is that you just stay present and pay attention to your body and mind. I’ve found that so many of these “matches” are completely programmed responses that we’ve had hundreds of times before. The difference is not letting the program run without your participation.
This is NOT easy stuff, believe me! I wouldn’t pretend that it is. What I am saying is it is worth your time to learn whatever mindfulness practice helps you to stop the organ grinder and helps you regain your calm. Jon Kabat-Zinn and Tara Brach both have some great free resources you can watch or listen to if you need a mindfulness practice you can start today.
The most important thing is that you take it seriously but don’t beat yourself up when you fail. I fail at this all the time but it doesn’t keep me from trying the next time. Yesterday’s victory was especially sweet for me! You WILL have success if you make it a habit to defuse negative thoughts before they take over your mindset!
What’s Your Secret?
What about you? Do you have a method you use to keep the little things from steamrolling your mindset? Leave me a comment and tell me about it? Also, if you’ve enjoyed this post, please use the sharing buttons to share it with your friends and families.