HOPE NOTE #2: Mindfulness - Being Present and Noticing Thoughts
Hello my hopefuls:)
I think hope is something that happens on the INSIDE of us. I don’t think it’s actually connected to what’s going on around us.
When I was about 25 I worked at Speedpro Signs with a lady named Bonnie Yeomans. She was great to work for and so, so, so interesting to talk to. One day while we worked on signs and chatted about life she said, “I remember the day I realized that I couldn’t believe everything I thought. Just because I thought it, didn’t make it true.”
I laughed and pretended I knew what she was talking about, but on the inside, well, you know when you shove a stick into someone’s bicycle wheel while they are riding their bike (bad idea. Do it once and you’ll be so sorry you’ll never do it again) and they come tumbling head over handlebars down in a hurry?
My thoughts were unceremoniously thrown into a pile of scattered nonsense. Just like that.
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaa????? Literally mind blown.
Don’t believe my thoughts? But . . . I’m smart. I know stuff. I have good thoughts. I read books. I ask questions. Don’t believe... What?
I have thought about that conversation for YEARS. What did she mean??!! She didn’t really mean… to question my own thoughts. Did she?
It took me a lot of years and a lot of life experience to figure out that she simply meant what she said: don’t believe everything you think.
I think if we are to have hope, we have to develop a practice, a skill, a way to deal with the thoughts we are having. Hope isn’t something that needs to depend on what’s going on. Hope can come from the inside. From our beliefs. From how we think and see the world. For years I wondered HOW. HOW do I deal with the thoughts in my head?!!
There’s a super trendy word called “MINDFULNESS.” Scares some people. Excites others.
I ran across a children’s book (that no longer seems to be in print) about a puppy - that helped me understand Mindfulness. The little guy kept chasing his tail and tumbling in all different directions - he never caught his tail, and he never got anywhere. But he sure got tired.
Thoughts run through our brains like crazy. Well, at least my brain. And I chase them, one after another. I get distracted by one, and then by another one. And another one. Pretty soon I’m tired of running around in circles and I haven’t accomplished anything except for - I’m exhausted.
For me it’s like I just get started thinking, “I need to do laundry today. Ah, it’s too hard. There’s too much. I can’t. Ohhh look at this! I got a message. Hmm. I love instagram. Wow. Her feed looks amazing. I bet she’s an amazing mom. I wonder why we’re not friends. Covid makes friendships impossible. Oh dang I’ve been on my phone forever and I’ve done nothing. I suck. I’m a terrible mom. I’m so tired.”
What if I was aware of my thoughts and even laughed at them. “Laundry? Too hard to throw stuff in a machine? That’s hilarious.” And then move on and do laundry.
I think in order to grow our hope, we have to notice what thoughts are already happening in our heads so that we don’t get buried by thoughts that really aren’t true and aren’t worth our time.
I’ve heard someone compare our brains to toddlers. They run around going after whatever they want, big feelings, big meltdowns, and no predictability or logic for what’s happening today.
For years I just followed my brain around unconsciously - confused about why my emotions were so out of control and why I struggled in friendships and held grudges. I could be up and down, but never consistent in hope. Calm and peaceful regardless. I’m still not - but I AM growing.
I have a little song for you - it’s worth listening to AND watching. I don’t mind telling you I wrote it myself to help myself when thoughts would overwhelm me. When I was learning about thoughts, I tried to just stop the negative ones, but they wouldn’t go away. I had to learn to notice them - and instead of accepting and believing them, just acknowledge them, be curious about them, even laugh at them, and then let them go.