Hello and welcome to Thursday, September 2, 2021. Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again.
This week’s mindfulness support expands on last week’s theme, “Just Do It Anyway.” As I shared last week, it’s important to not let thoughts and emotions persuade us to procrastinate. This week, we’ll focus on how impulses and desires influence us to do things that, in the long run, increase suffering and often lead to remorse.
A common situation where we succumb to impulses and strong desires is around food. Most of us can relate to walking into a grocery store with a list, moseying down the aisle, and have some sugary snacks catch our eye. Despite being completely content only moments before, now that we’ve seen the yummy delight, we can’t imagine a life without it. Though we may have sworn off sugar for a month, we find ourselves ravenously gobbling it up in the car on the way home.
For some of us, this example is not a concern. For others, it’s a slippery slope which may lead to binging followed by shameful regret. Regardless of your experience with this food example, most of us have that one thing that hooks us. Whether its drugs, gambling, pornography, or shopping for shoes, once hooked, we often feel powerless. But we’re not.
Though twelve years ago I was hopelessly addicted to opiates, a death sentence for many, I have been relieved of that obsession. While many things contributed to my recovery, there is one skill that I practice daily that helps to not only prevent an opiate relapse, but also helps me to recognize more common triggering desires before I feel compelled to act on them. The insightful skill is Mindfulness of Breath (Shamatha) meditation.
Though there are many benefits of a Shamatha practice, for me, one of the most practical is the ability to choose one thought over another. This has taken time, patience, and lots of practice. No, I don’t have it mastered. But I am able to make better choices for myself – intentional choices. Shamatha meditation helps us to choose one thought over another because while we’re meditating, we learn to recognize thoughts as they arise. The sooner we can recognize a thought, the sooner we can discern whether it’s something that will benefit our life or something that will detract from it.
We are going to have thoughts, always. That’s what our mind does—it’s a producer of thoughts. That’s its job. Furthermore, our mind is indifferent. The thoughts that we put energy into are the types of thoughts it will continue to produce. If we act on every time our mind produces a sugary treat thought, the mind will more frequently produce that thought. Unfortunately, our mind doesn’t take into consideration the remorse following the indulgence. Impulsive thought tends to precede and override any thoughts associated with consequence.
We have a saying in recovery, “Think through the drink,” which means when the thought arises that a drink might be a good idea, we pause, and consider the disastrous outcome. While this is sage advice, if we can’t develop the ability to recognize the nature of the thought before we are emotionally triggered, thinking through the drink may not be an option. Once triggered, it’s hard to not act on the thought. So, we meditate. Through meditation we create a space between stimulus (the thought) and our response. This space provides us an opportunity to choose to act on the thought, or not.
You really do have a choice.
If you would like to further develop this or any other Mindfulness skill, I’m here to help.
You are Loved by me, Unconditionally!
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