Have you ever noticed how extravagant the stories of the mind can be?
This is the second time in my life when I am really noticing how much my mind loves to create intricate plots, and how often I succumb to believing that those carefully crafted sagas are true!
Here is a prime example from today.
I haven’t had coffee in two weeks but today something in me said,
“Must have caffeine.”
So of course, I head to the neighborhood Starbucks. Walking up to the door, I see a beautiful and tired, young, new mom with a very small baby in a sling carrier and a small dog on a leash sitting at a table. I fondly remembered my times of holding a baby in a carrier, and at the same time, was grateful that my smallest “baby” is now about two-and-a-half years old.
At the counter, before giving my order, I notice that this young mom is now standing at the counter to get her drink, juggling her very small infant in the sling carrier awkwardly and not looking very confident.
My first thought was to offer some help. Surely I could carry her drink to her table for her. But as I stand apparently paralyzed, unable to move or speak, she finds an adequate way to juggle both the baby and her drink at precisely the same time as I’m asked what I would like to order.
So I order.
And I look back, and don’t see young, new mom.
First thought, she figured it out and everything is fine.
Enter Creative Crystal, my new name for this distinctive mind personality of mine.
I get my drink, doctor it up, and then make my way back outside, where I see the dog, with a small cup of water, but no young, new mom. Creative Crystal starts painting her tale of drama and woe. She tells me I should go back in, find and help young, new mom.
I ignore her.
Creative Crystal tells me as I’m driving away, that young, new mom must be in the bathroom, struggling to get the tiny infant correctly and securely positioned in the carrier in order to nurse her. She reminds me of how difficult this is for a new mom—after all, I had the same struggles.
I acknowledge that this is one possibility and then keep driving, ignoring her.
She points out that I haven’t wanted coffee in two weeks, maybe I was meant to go to Starbucks specifically so that I could help young, new mom.
She says that maybe she is depressed, unable to hold her infant, re-tie her sling carrier, and then position the baby by herself in the bathroom—after all, where on earth would you put the baby?
She tells me that my quest to help people must really not be very serious if I’m willing to overlook someone in need, someone who I could most obviously help and uplift.
At this point, I am tired of being scoffed at by Creative Crystal. I tell her I’ll turn around, and although I’m nearly home, I turn around and drive back. I see the dog still in the same position with the cup of water.
I park the car, and as I’m walking back toward the bathroom, I see young, new mom sitting on a sofa with another young, new mom enjoying her Starbucks beverage and happily nursing her infant. I do a mental head-slap, unable to believe that I have fallen for Creative Crystal and her tales of woe yet again.
And I start laughing.
I’m not annoyed; though at times, Creative Crystal can be quite a nuisance, spinning her stories at the most inappropriate times. Instead of being frustrated, I look at this situation as an opportunity to see how Creative Crystal uses her powers of storytelling and how I willingly fall for them as truth.
This was a very impersonal example of something the mind does in personal ways all the time.
It’s not just me—it’s everyone—though some people have a more disciplined way of dealing with these stories.
Have you ever had a partner, husband, wife, boy/girlfriend or friend be late and immediately started wondering if they have been in an accident? Have you done this to the extreme of seeing where the accident was (I-95, C-470, etc). and if other cars were involved, etc?
Most people have. Most people chalk this up to “worrying.”
And while on the surface it can be chalked up to “worrying,” a deeper dive into understanding our mind’s true nature would indicate that our minds are constantly thinking, and sometimes even scheming.
Some of the thoughts we have are truth or reality based, and some of them are not. And above all else, we have a choice about whether or not we buy into the things our minds tell us.
For me, obviously, this is a work in progress.
In some cases, Creative Crystal knows which buttons to push in order to get my reaction, and my job is to take the sensitivity out of that trigger so that I can create a pause between the stimulus of her story and my response to it. By doing this, I can mindfully choose whether or not to believe the story.
Many, many brilliant minds have written about inserting that pause between stimulus and response, so I’m not going to, but I will say that becoming aware of your thoughts, and your responses to them in a playful way helps cultivate loving understanding.
Loving understanding in turn helps to cultivate self-compassion.
And self-compassion in turn helps to cultivate changes in behaviors.
Want to begin cultivating loving understanding? Here are a few tips and tricks to doing so:
1. Begin by noticing the personalities of the mind and give them silly/fun names.
For instance, I have Creative Crystal, Badmouthing Babs, and Negative Nancy.
2. When you begin to have thoughts that are a bit uncomfortable, see if they are coming from a “known” mind personality.
If so, you can easily choose to chalk the thought up to her/him: “Badmouthing Babs is at it again.”
3. See if you can easily walk away from the thought.
If so, this is likely not a big trigger for you. Excellent! Let it go!
If you can’t, you may want to begin a deeper inquiry into where the thought comes from (hint: a fear or deeply held belief?). Follow your most loved method of inquiry here, the one that brings you the most success.
4. Make every attempt not to condemn yourself for your thoughts.
FYI: You are not a bad person for having a Badmouthing Babs.
5. Instead, learn to smile or even laugh at how predictable the mind is.
Personal tidbit: My mind likes to tell me that I’m less womanly than every woman with a great set of boobs. I know many of us have this same voice, but learning to lovingly dismiss this thought as predictable, with a smile or a laugh, is a sanity saver. There are tons of women with awesome boobs.
As a stretch goal, begin to learn to love in others that which makes you jealous or insecure initially. Learning to admire (without jealousy or insecurity) someone else’s assets or gifts is a great milestone on the road of acceptance.
Remember that awareness brings about the ability to change behavior.
As you become aware of your mind’s tricks, stories and tendencies earlier and earlier, you will become more and more able to insert that pause between stimulus and response, allowing you to make choices that ultimately will lead you to a happier and more peaceful state of being.
Author: Tina Meadows
Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Travis May
Photo: Hartwig HKD/Flickr