“We are shaped by our thoughts. We become what we think. When our mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” —Buddha
Have you ever had a morning where everything went wrong?
You know what I mean. You spill coffee on your white shirt, you forget to get gas, you’re stuck in traffic as you realize you lost one of your favorite earrings because you’re only wearing one!
These things in and of themselves are not a big deal, but it’s surprising how one thing sets off another. Before you know it, you feel stressed and you can’t believe everything is going wrong and happening to you.
But here’s the thing, what we think perpetuates what we experience. As we think about all that’s going wrong, our thoughts reinforce feeling stress and anxiety.
What if we just noticed our thoughts and saw them as thoughts, not as who we are or what’s true? We probably wouldn’t get so stressed by them.
How we think about things is how we see them. Knowing this can make the difference between a “bad” day and a “great” one.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
Going To Jury Duty
Last week I had jury duty and arrived about 20 minutes early. I was in a good mood, ready to do my civic duty. I had my laptop so I could work, knowing I might be there all day. After I parked, I was walking towards the courthouse with my backpack slung over my shoulder, a cup of coffee in one hand, and my phone in the other.
As I walked down the road towards the building, my backpack slipped off my shoulder jostling my arm, and I dropped my phone.
There was a curb and sidewalk on my left and in about 2 seconds flat, my phone hit the pavement, and skidded down a 12 inch by 10 inch storm drain. (Bullseye!)
I could see my phone in plain sight, but there was no way I could reach it!
After a moment of sheer disbelief, my feeling of well-being left as I tried to figure out how to get my phone.
I didn’t know what to do, and I felt upset and anxious. My thoughts began a negative narration full of things like, “What if I can’t . . . what will I do if. . .?” It felt like wading in the ocean and getting hit by a rogue wave that knocks you off your feet, leaving you in panic until the world is right side up again.
And Then It Hit Me
But then I realized I didn’t have to stress over it. Everything was going to be fine no matter what. In fact, my situation was almost funny!
At that moment I saw a man walking towards me on his way to the building. I asked him if he worked there and he said “yes.” I explained what was going on, and showed him where my phone was. He said, “ I’ll get help,” and went off. A few minutes later, a security guard appeared.
As soon as he looked down the storm drain, he just shook his head and said, “Wow.”
“Can you help?” I asked. I knew I probably had less than ten minutes until jury duty.
“Yep,” he replied, and pointed to a manhole cover, which I hadn’t even noticed. “Wait here,” he instructed, and returned to the building.
About a minute later, he reappeared with gloves and tools, and over the course of the next five minutes proceeded to take off the manhole cover, jump down the drain pipe, and grab my phone.
I made it to jury duty with a minute to spare.
Now here’s the thing. At first I was upset and anxious about losing my phone and possibly being late to jury duty. But, when I noticed my thoughts were spinning out, they settled down and a deeper truth came through.
So I relaxed, and the crazy thoughts lost their power because I wasn’t engaging with them. Everything shifted, and the help I needed showed up. I mean, it probably would have anyway—so why suffer through the stress in the meantime?!
In the big picture, it didn’t matter if I never got my phone back, or was late, or whatever else life threw at me. I would still be okay.
So next time something throws you off or upsets you and your thoughts begin a negative tirade, let them. And remember that they’re thoughts and that they will come and go. Just this reminder will bring you back to the moment in front of you. Everything relaxes and there’s room for solutions.
This was certainly my experience on that day.
We all have it within us to notice where our thoughts are taking us, and to see that they’re just thoughts. This one thing—how we think and what we think—shifts how we experience the world.
The benefit? A lot more ease and joy in your day!