Sit Down and Breathe

Have you ever noticed that thoughts arise in your mind as if they have a life of their own? They string together into stories that we repeat, embellish and then act upon. Sometimes they are gone as quickly as they come, and other times we just can’t seem to get them out of our head. But they are just thoughts- not who we are- and not necessarily truth, or even factual.

One way to picture all those mental gymnastics is to view the process of thinking as a water fall, a continual cascading of thought. To reflect on what’s going on we need to go behind, or beyond our thinking, much the way you might find a vantage point in a depression behind a waterfall. We still see and hear the water, but we are out of the torrent.

The next time you feel a sense of frustration, of something being missing or not quite right, turn inward just as an experiment. See if you can capture the energy of that very moment. Instead of picking up a magazine or going shopping, calling a friend or looking for something to eat, take a moment for yourself. Don’t feed into, or react to, your mental impulses, your flow of thoughts. Sit down and breathe. Don’t look for anything. Don’t even think to yourself, “I’m going inward now.” Just sit. Give yourself the time and space to let thinking dissipate and open into wonder.

Life isn’t about where you’re going as much as it is about being where you are. Except for thinking about the future or the past, the only real power we have to do anything is in the present. The past is, for the most part, behind us, and we cannot alter it. The future is, by definition, ahead of us. We can act in the present moment based on what we have learned in the past, realizing that our present action will in turn influence the future. But all we have to really work with is today.

We need to go nose to nose with pain, confusion, frustration or loss if that is dominating our thinking at the present moment. But be kind to yourself. It isn’t just ourselves that we are discovering. To the degree that we are willing to look into our own thinking, our own hearts, we gain a measure of openness and kindness that we are able to extend to each other.