Remember back in June, when I wrote about one of my favorite take-aways from HAPPINESS IS AN INSIDE JOB by Sylvia Boorstein? (That one was, “To be in peaceful, engaged connection with yourself and others, encourage, console and appreciate. You can review and visit my little drawing here.)
I promised then to share my second favorite Boorstein take-away sometime soon, and I know you’ve been sighing and tapping your foot just waiting for this next indispensable tool for sane living. Well, here it is, just 10 short weeks later, with another masterful piece of art to help wedge it right into your brain for future reference.
This is an internal dialogue script that Ms. Boorstein herself uses, to find her equilibrium in times of distress:
Sweetheart, you are in pain. Relax. Take a breath. Let’s pay attention to what is happening. Then we’ll figure out what to do.
Simple, right? It’s powerful though. Allow me to explain:
- Sweetheart – That’s an important word right from the start. Referring to yourself with a fond pet name, one that calls to mind your innate good nature, your sweet heart, is a life changing habit. Kindness towards yourself is step one. For everything. You can choose another nickname if you like. Pumpkin, cutie, darling… as long as it represents your intimate, loving and respectful relationship with yourself.
- You are in pain. – Here “pain” is a general term for the murky sludge of discomfort in which we are frequently mired. There’s anger, anxiety, uncertainty, shame, sadness, you name it (see the list in my picture). We humans find all of these feelings painful. Most of it is so familiar that we don’t quite register it as suffering. We just act out our pain and cause more of it as we go. Stopping and noticing that we’re out of sorts is the beginning of peace.
- Relax. – What? Don’t tell me to relax! We’re late and there’s traffic and I made the same stupid mistake again! I know being told to “relax” when you are upset can be royally irritating. In the case of this mindfulness script, “relax” isn’t meant as a judgement that you’re being unreasonable, or an inane invitation to “go with the flow.” The instruction is to relax, literally. Scan your body for muscle tension and purposefully release it. After all, clenching your jaw does not speed traffic along. It just adds a headache to your troubles.
- Take a breath. – Physical relaxation, plus a full, conscious breath, go a long way towards soothing your nervous system and clearing your mind. Also, paying attention to one breath briefly stops the narrative in your head that has you upset. This break in your flow of thoughts offers a little space, some breathing room, in the present moment. In this space, you have options. You have the freedom to choose your next steps.
- Let’s pay attention to what is happening. – Oh boy. This one’s big. There are two arenas to investigate here: What’s happening inside you, meaning your thoughts, feelings and emotions. And what’s happening outside of you, the observable facts. To aid the internal investigation I find these questions helpful:
– What am I feeling? – What am I afraid of? – What hurts? – Who’s judgement of me am I concerned about? – What do I want that I’m worried I can’t have? – Where am I feeling vulnerable?
Once you’ve scanned your internal world, then you notice the situation around you. What’s actually going on? As you take stock of what’s happening, in the present moment, you drop your resistance to it. It’s already happening. There’s no use trying to change what’s done. For now, just notice.
- Then we’ll figure out what to do. – Great! Now that we know what we’re dealing with, we can come up with a plan. We can move forward and try something out. We’ll do what we can do, without wasting a drop of energy on what lies beyond our power.
All of this happens quickly. It’s just a pause. But the pause is all you need to keep in alignment with your highest values, your greater purpose, and your wisest self. And, sweetheart, that is a gift.
Oh my goodness, I’ve gone on and on here. If you’re still reading, I hope you’ll try out this script and see if it helps. Try it often, whenever you feel even a shade shy of fantastic. I’d be thrilled to hear how it goes.
Happily, more wisdom awaits in the next session of Yoga Book Club, featuring A THOUSAND NAMES FOR JOY by Byron Katie. Katie (as her friends call her) tells us that a clear and simple knowledge of what to do in any given moment, arises naturally when we are unconfused.
I say bring on the unconfusion!
I know one clear and simple thing you could do. If you’re local and your Thursday mornings are free, come join me in Yoga Book Club starting the 17th. To register now, try the Wellesley Recreation website (even though the series is $150, not $150/$310 as the site mysteriously lists). Or call on Monday 781 235 2370.
Thanks for reading, darling. You’re a peach.