Have you ever noticed how much we all love telling stories? I’m not talking Jackanory here – we’re much more subtle.
Our ‘monkey mind’ (the part of us that does the running commentary, whatever we’re doing) is rarely off-duty and relishes a little drama. It believes that life without our own personal soap opera would be about as exciting as Christmas without the cranberry sauce.
And the thing is that the monkey mind is far from being a neutral observer. It much prefers to pass comment on everything that’s going on, feeding the currently-favoured emotion like bellows on an open fire.
And I had a lovely reminder of this a little while ago.
I was feeling particularly grumpy and glum (yes, running a blog on happiness and stuff doesn’t mean I’m Pollyanna all the time!). I was in the middle of a major melt-down of some renovation work at home, but grumpy & glum really weren’t called-for. And, curiously, the more I put my “fix it” hat on and tried to rationalise myself out of the emotion, the worse I felt.
Then the words of a Buddhist meditation teacher I once knew came to mind.
He used to tell me that:
“The mind can only hold a thought for 60 seconds, then it will disappear, unless you feed it with another thought.“
Of course, back then,my rational brain used to object and point out that I was perfectly capable of holding a thought or emotion for as long as I chose. But deep down, I secretly knew that it was only because I kept feeding it. And now, as a meditation teacher, I know the truth of the fact that:
Any thought or emotion, left to its own devices, will eventually complete its cycle and go.
But if you resist it and fight it, you are feeding it and it is going to grow. As Carl Jung told us:
“What you resist persists.“
And that’s exactly what I was doing that time, when I was feeling down. By trying to analyse and understand why I was feeling the way I was, my monkey mind got to stoke those fires way before each 60 second segment was through. And, before I knew it, it was 2 a.m. and my frustration was growing into full-blown anger.
Yet had I just accepted the emotion of frustration when it was tiny, it would have quickly moved on and I’d have felt better within minutes.
Instead, I kept telling myself more and more stories that wound me up further, constantly trying to paddle upstream, against the flow.
I wasn’t just thinking one grumpy and annoyed thought – I was feeding an army of thousands of them. Feeling happier and at least ‘ok’ about things didn’t stand a chance, while I was actively inviting grumpy thoughts into my mind.
Just letting go and going with the emotional flow would have allowed me to choose a thought that helped me feel slightly better. Then another one – and another one.
One happier thought at a time. And who knows where that might lead?
Want to connect with others who are finding out the answer to that question? Then make sure you join in with the Soul Sized Living forum – it’s free and a great place to share experiences and get answers to your questions. Plus there are all sorts of members-only goodies and extra resources and articles waiting for you. Join Soul Sized Living today.
And if you’d like some help to create a bit of ‘space’ in your Monkey Mind, to help you more easily choose which thoughts to feed, you might really enjoy the 28 Day Meditation Challenge online course.