Day 35: Braving the Mind Field

I don’t know about you, but for me, my mind sometimes plays tricks on me.  It can suddenly start clouding my head, and for awhile it feels like storm cloud has just decided to hang out there, or maybe I’m suddenly tiptoeing through a mine field hoping not to explode.   When this happens, I usually feel groggy or out of sorts, confused or lethargic.  It’s what my wife refers to as “the alien” on my face: unclear thinking and a dubious mood.  The head chatter at this time tends to be negative, making exaggerated one-sided negative pronouncements that unfortunately can be hard for me to ignore.   I can easily get sucked into it, like being near a reverse hypnotist who draws me into its trance of ugliness, or a really harsh parent who shows no mercy, looking for any reason to be hard on me.

Usually, there’s something going on in the real world to spark this mental stress. It could be some work situation that didn’t go well, or some expectation I had that didn’t happen. Yet my head’s reaction is usually way over blown.   For example, this weekend, I had my sights set up on going out backpacking.  This is something that I have done several times in the past few years (I wrote about it extensively in two different posts, here and here.).  But for a variety of reasons, I’m not going this weekend, and I’m not exactly sure when I am going.  I did, however, join a local backpacking Meetup group, and I’m hoping to meet some other backpacking enthusiasts and take some kind of trip in the next few months.

Seems like a pretty normal situation with a likely happy ending, right?  Not a tragedy or anything.   But what does my mind do?  Of course, it is on my case, telling me that I failed, giving me a hard time for not going out this weekend “like I planned to” (funny thing: I may have told myself I was going, but I actually made no concrete plans, it was more wishful thinking than reality).

My mind’s tendency to strike first can be hard to deal with.   These days, I am better able to stop and look at what is going on, and pull apart the judgmental thinking.   Rather than taking it too seriously anymore, I can kind of smirk about it.   Gradually, I’m learning how to deal with it effectively.  It’s like a dirty car front windshield: no matter how dirty it gets, I continually apply the windshield wipers.  I’m not going to let the dirt and wind from the dust storm stop me from moving down my path.  If need be, I can park by the side of the road until it clears, and there’s always a gas station I can stop at to give the windows a thorough cleaning.

For many years, starting after college, I would write rhymes in my rhyming journals to deal with this head trash.  I called it “turning lemons into lemonade.”  And it really worked.  These days I’m more likely to type or write out my thoughts just to get them out of my head, or sit and meditate to get my mind clear.  Sometimes I need to take a break, take a nap, or focus on something completely different in order to regain a positive mental head space.

Overall I’m learning that I don’t have to be at the effect of the nonsense in my head.  To me it is a big reason for optimism about living.  When you can positively affect your mindstate, you are in control of your life, because no matter what happens, you start feeling like you can always find a way to get through the mind field.   🙂

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