First World Problems. Of more than 7 billion people, we hit the lotto. UNICEF reports 768 million people do not have access to safe, clean drinking water, and 2.5 billion people live without proper sanitation and 3.4 million die each year as a result. Daily 2,000 children die. So pretty much whatever happens to me today is at best a minor inconvenience.
Many of us are used to the comfortable and familiar feeling of suffering. So even when life is good; when we have so many things to be thankful for; we will dwell on things that cause us suffering (in the form of irritation, annoyance, agitation, pain, sadness, anger and a host of other fear based emotions).
The neuroscience behind this is that we literally wire paths in our brain. A person who stays in an angered state chemically alters their brain activity. Ever notice that a joyful person looks different? They have bright eyes, a softer face, a pleasant smile. They have also chemically altered their state which can be physically seen.
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – Guatama Buddha.
Joy. Happiness. Success. All require the same thing; a willingness to take action. If we want to chemically alter our state, to a joyful state, then we have to be wiling to do the work.
Here is how most of us use our minds “I can’t believe she said that, I need to get this done, take these here, oh the kids are driving me nuts, my life was hard I remember this time when…. I wonder if they like me, I hate them, this asshole better speed up, F$#K how are we going to pay for this”.
It’s constant chatter. Most of which is focused on fear based thoughts; past memories or future projections. The past can not be changed and the future has not happened so logically this is not the highest and best use of our brain power.
We must train our thoughts to think about how thankful we are to have drinking water. To remind ourselves this may be a minor inconvenience but these are First World Problems. Then we shift our thoughts to the present moment.
“Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable, determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.” – Frances Hodgson Burnett.
What is important is right now. Right now I choose to be joyful. I choose to look at all the things in my life that are going well. I choose to stay in the moment. If my mind does want to dwell outside this moment then I choose to allow it to focus on a happy thought or memory. Those familiar negative feedback loops at how I am disappointed over my childhood, that worn out song about my spouse that plays in my head or these repeat themes and assessments about “life” that are probably not grounded are so boring…..
Ever get tired of the sound of your own thoughts? I did and that’s when my life started to change. I couldn’t stand my own thoughts anymore and sometimes when I would go to speak them I couldn’t stand listening to the same stories anymore.
In 2008 I decided it was time to beat a new tune. I was tired. I realize I had wasted time too much time in this negative thought space that serves no useful purpose in my life. It sucks the energy from my soul, it sets me in an agitated state and leads to shame, guilt, depression, rage and a host of other fear based emotions. It’s time to change and the time is RIGHT NOW.
So I did three things; started to pay attention to the chatter, started to ask questions about the chatter, and consciously focused my attention on new thoughts.
For what purpose would I allow my brain to dwell on past hurts that will only cause me to suffer. When did I become so comfortable with being uncomfortable? Am I aware of all my thoughts? Do I realize how many of them are spent reliving meaningless chatter? Have I just allowed my thoughts to run wild? Do I understand that allowing my thoughts to run wild is giving up my power? That I am responsible for my thoughts? That I do have the power to change them, to train my brain, to bring my thoughts back to the present moment. If I believe this is true; then it is. If I believe it is not true; then it will not be true for me and I am free to keep doing what I’ve always done. Keeping in mind I may continue to get what I’ve always gotten.
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” ― Henry David Thoreau.