Send It Down the River

Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts and happenings.  It consists mainly of the storm of thought that is forever flowing through one’s head. – Mark Twain

If there is one thing I strive to do, it’s to practice what I teach.  In my meditation and yoga classes, I like to remind my students to acknowledge their thoughts and then let them float down the river of their mind.  This is a practice that I emphasize because it does so much for me, my attitude and my peace of mind.

To be honest here, in my adult life, there have been only a handful of times that I have had a true reason to worry and fret.  The ten thousand other times have been solely for my mind’s entertainment.  I have a talent for taking a thought or idea and pulling it like a string until I come unwoven.  Yoga and meditation didn’t come into my life because I don’t let things bother me…things don’t bother me as much because yoga and meditation came into my life.

I have learned that my thoughts are important and they are the basis of my creativity and compassion.  I have also learned that the thoughts in my head are not in control of the outcomes of my life and that if I don’t want to think about something anymore, all I have to do is send it down the river.  I can do this in meditation, in yoga class or in my car, but there are also many other ways to let those pesky thoughts go.

Here are some things that have worked for me:

1. Telling a friend who thinks a lot like me who will understand my thoughts so I don’t feel like I’m stupid or crazy or completely messed up.

2. Telling a friend who is the complete opposite of me who will not understand my thoughts and remind me of how crazy or stupid or messed up I am.

3. Taking a long walk as I notice my thoughts, the air, the sounds and sights.  Sometimes I stop and sit down somewhere to give me a different perspective and make me feel like someone new.  If I’m on a trail, I see how long I can close my eyes while walking.  I don’t know why, but I feel differently when I open them.

4. Asking lots of questions.  I find that if my thoughts get stuck in a moment, I can begin to ask others around me questions and it gets my mind back to problem-solving, creativity mode and off of my cud chewing.

5. Journaling. My mom always told me not to ever write something down that I did not want the whole world to see, but in this case it’s okay.  Getting it out on paper with a pen in your hand is effective therapy.  If you are worried that someday someone will read your most private thoughts, then just burn it after you write. The healing will come from the writing, not the existence of the journal.

6. Taking on a new project.  If a thought won’t leave me alone, I like to get busy.  I clean a closet or rearrange the furniture.  I make something, write something, read something, send something, research something, or care for something.

7. Counting.  If I have trouble falling asleep because of that sticky thought, I count my exhales backwards from 50. When I get to 20, I start counting my inhales and my exhales.  If I’m not asleep at zero, I just start over again.  It works every time.

8. Praying. Meditation is my time to listen to God.  Praying is my time to talk to God.  If I can’t shake a thought, I go to God and ask him to show me how to let go.  I ask for comfort in knowing that no matter if my thought does or does not come true, that he will always be with me and I will always be okay.

The questions of life seem to always answer themselves.  Thinking is wonderful, but we miss so much joy and so many gifts by spending our moments in thoughts rather than in living.  So let those thoughts jump on a tube and float on by.

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