There is a part of my mind that reflexively comes up with unhelpful comments and attitudes about what’s going on. I call it my “monster mind.” It says things like, “it will never work,” “I will always be miserable,” and the ever-popular “I’m such a loser.”
Lately I’ve been bothered by a lack of enthusiasm for my day job, a general feeling that my life doesn’t have enough joy in it and a sense that I am not appreciating others in my life enough. (Asking the question, “what isn’t working for me?” as part of my of my reinvention inventory allowed me to put words to these general feelings of unease.)
This sounds like the work of my monster mind, but what can I do about it?
Create a Mental Response
Sometimes I am doing a task and have a thought in response to it. For example, I’m at work thinking “this is such a waste of time” or “they are doing this stupidly.” What useful thought could I have in answer? I am lucky enough to work for a nonprofit organization with a valuable mission. The work I do serves a larger purpose, even though specific tasks seem pointless or stupid to me.
Here’s my experiment:
- recognize that my monster mind is at work
- take a breath
- find the kernel of value in what I’m doing
- recommit to my task
This process only takes a minute. I have been practicing it for about a week and I’m finding it to be helpful.
Create a Mental Practice
Sometimes my monster mind works in more subtle, attitudinal ways. There is not a moment when I’m aware of a specific thought, but I don’t feel the way I want to be feeling. For example, I want to feel more loving toward people and less serious toward my life in general.
Here are my experiments:
- I’ve added a “tap flutter” action to my stretch breaks. I tap my hand against my desk and wiggle my fingers while moving my hand up in the air. This is a silly thing to do and reminds me to lighten up.
- When I see someone, I say to myself, “look! A divine being in human skin!” ( See Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)
Taking Time to Practice
Adding new practices and habits to life is always a challenge. (12 Step Literature: ” I never will find time for anything. if I want time I must take it.” ) I haven’t been doing something and now I want to do it. How do I “make myself” include new things in my daily life?
There are two things that have been successful for me:
- I add them to an existing daily practice or habit. Those negative thoughts at work will arise so I respond to them with my new, more resourceful, “find the kernel” thought. When I see a human being, I remind myself they are really a divine being in human skin. My visual reminders are built-in.
- I create outside cues: My Big Stretch reminder program pops up to remind me to stretch while I’m working at the computer. I have added the words “tap flutter” to remind me to make the motion and lighten up. (It makes me smile every time I see it.)
Practice and Experimentation
I’ve chosen the words experimenting and practicing because forgiveness is built-in. If I could do something perfectly, I wouldn’t be practicing. Practice involves attempts and failures and recommitment. If I could predict results, I would be experimenting. Experimenting involves taking action and observing what happens. Practice and experimentation do not involve failure, they invite recommitment and reinvention.