I’ve been thinking this week about how our problems are, more or less, our perception of a situation as opposed to what the situation actually is.* That is, in some ways (not all and by no means am I aiming to discredit people’s life difficulties here), our problems don’t really exist externally to us – it’s our reflection and opinion of a given situation that creates the real issue…and our opinions are very easily swayed by the smallest nuances that often go undetected.
For example, have you ever had your opinion of someone tainted because of some of gossip? Perhaps you were having a great day until someone sent you a text in the wrong tone of voice and now you’re dwelling on it? Maybe it’s simply a case of being late to work which causes you to throw the whole day into the shit-can?
For me, it’s yes to all of the above. I’m an (over) sensitive fuck which is both a blessing and a curse. But, in any case, we need to be mindful about what we absorb on a daily basis. These are the small things which can taint our inner world causing us to look at the world, a person, a situation, with an entirely different perspective. Sometimes it’s an eroding that takes place over a number of months or years whilst, other times, it can happen in a moment. When this happens, it can be a real battle to stay true to yourself and remain optimistic.
What follows, when our inner world is tainted by all this crap, is that we spend much of our energy developing our view of a situation rather than taking a breath, stepping back, and viewing things for what they really are. We become obsessed with our narrative and we fail to see the objective reality of things as they are. This means that we get stuck a negative cycle and, being so involved in our internal narrative, we fail to see opportunities to change things – or change our opinion on things – so we can create a better story for ourselves.
This is where being present in each moment – identifying and grounding ourselves in our reality as it presents itself minute by minute, hour by hour – really becomes a strength that allows us to not get so caught up in our biased narratives of things. Practising this grants us the ability to view situations as they truly present themselves, and allows us to recognise the crap that tries to taint our inner world. We will be more mindful about what people say and how it makes us feel, giving us the power to discard their indecent opinions and gossip. We will be more accepting of the difficult moments in life because we will understand that they are merely that – moments. Moments which do not last and can be counteracted by a positive experience immediately after. So, you might be late to work one morning but that first coffee of the day will taste amazing. We will be more mindful of accepting other narratives of situations – was that text message really offensive or maybe we’re just in a negative state of mind already and looking for more victim status? (I’ll admit I’ve done this.)
Being mindful in this way means that we don’t run the risk of thinking ourselves out of happiness. One of my favourite quotes that I always try to remember when I feel myself slipping into my own negative narrative is by Jonathan Safran Foer:
“Does it break my heart, of course, every moment of every day, into more pieces than my heart was made of, I never thought of myself as quiet, much less silent, I never thought about things at all, everything changed, the distance that wedged itself between me and my happiness wasn’t the world, it wasn’t the bombs and burning buildings, it was me, my thinking, the cancer of never letting go, is ignorance bliss, I don’t know, but it’s so painful to think, and tell me, what did thinking ever do for me, to what great place did thinking ever bring me? I think and think and think, I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.”
Personally speaking, this week, I’ve spent much time in my own mind lately and telling myself a story that wasn’t benefitting my optimism. I wrote this is my journal:
I’ve spent so much time in my own mind lately that I didn’t consciously realise that the trees had bloomed into full green. My mind has been in Winter whilst the world has been in Spring…
There has to be a balance between the internal world and the external world. The hustle and bustle of our minds – our perceptions of reality – can distract us from what is really going on. […] Through our perceptions we can either think positive or negative and, depending on this, it is how our world will ultimately appear to us. In sum, it’s a case of shit in, shit out. That’s why it is so important to really be present in the moment – to be firmly rooted in what is happening in the here and now. Everything else is just noise.
Feel the wind. Hear the birds. Smell the flowers. Notice that Winter has turned to Spring.
So, people; guard your heart. Discard the bullshit. Don’t grow too attached to your own narrative. This is why it is so important to have someone in your life that you can talk to, someone who can shine light on the objective reality of a situation, someone that isn’t too involved in your narrative. Those people – they are the ones who root you back into reality.
Being planted in each moment as it unfolds means that you’re not going to throw away your entire day because of a rough morning, you’re not going to overthink that text message, and you’re going to forget the gossip. You’ll notice more joyful moments, the small victories, the personal triumphs, and the general beauty of life. You’ll begin to know that everything is in balance.
Spring has come, darling. Look and see.