Picture this. A couple dining al fresco in Costa Rica under the stars enjoying wine, house made chips & pico de gallo, salad and freshly caught fish. Sounds like the perfect evening, right? Anyone watching from afar would say, “Yes!” This was me a few nights ago and yes it was lovely except for some of the emotions generated from the thoughts I was having!
My husband, Scott, and I sat down at a less then desirable indoor table when a single man from Canada gave up his table outside for us and joined others sitting at the outdoor bar. At that moment I felt gratitude for his awareness and generosity and later found he was visiting on a yoga retreat. The waitress soon after brought us water. Then we waited 15 minutes. When she returned we ordered our “cocktails” and chips. Then we waited another 15 to 20 minutes. I was getting “hangry” and a bit annoyed that I was being made to wait for so long until I noticed or “woke up” and said to my husband a quote from Eckhart Tolle author of The Power of Now that we frequently use to get back on track, “I’m not waiting. I’m simply sitting here enjoying myself”. We both chuckled at the absurdity of being upset by the slow service and spent the next few moments discussing how we are both working on “getting better at it” meaning the self-check of our emotions and the thoughts they generate.
I cannot say it better than the yogi Sadhguru in his book Inner Engineering a Yogi’s Guide to Joy: “The bitterness or sweetness of any experience is not the event itself, but how you perceive or respond to it.” Through the practices of yoga, meditation, and books like these two along with You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought by Peter McWilliams (my current read) I’m catching myself a little quicker each time and choosing a more peaceful or joyful response. Just think, the other evening I could have carried around the burden of upset until after paying the dinner bill, but caught myself even before the appetizers arrived. Progress!
All three books mentioned offer something a little different. The Power of Now could be perceived as a little “out there” and I actually got more from listening to the audio in the car then reading. Tolle has a great sense of humor and it’s fun to hear him chuckle as he guides the reader how to be in the Now. Next you do not need to have a physical yoga practice to benefit from Inner Engineering . I enjoyed his teachings through stories and the lightness he applied to happiness through mindfulness. You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought is an easy read and the perfect primer if this “work” is new to you.
There are other ways to build awareness as well. One is to begin a gratitude practice. Journal 3 things you’re grateful for every evening. Through the day think about what you’re going to list at night. You will begin to notice the gratitude or positive feelings and catch yourself when the negative pop up. Another is sitting quietly for 5 to 20 minutes (yep! Meditating) will reveal a lot. There is a common misconception that meditation is about total silence and clearing the mind. It can be this, but it is also about “watching” your thoughts and some self-analysis as to the emotions behind them so you can understand your reactions and get a little better at handling the emotions.
Whatever approach you choose, it’s always steps forward and backward. Be gentle and forgiving with yourself when you stumble and use these events as the teachers for doing it better next time.
As always if you need more resources, books or websites email me at Beth@BethGrahamWellness.com and I’d be happy to share.