Blog reflections by Elizabeth Shoop, LPC
Remember that time at the beach when you got knocked over by a huge wave? I think most people can relate. I sure can.
One minute you're wading happily along or swimming peacefully, somehow instinctively knowing when to tread water, jump, or plant your feet so the waves just roll on by.
But, this next wave seems different. As it swells and builds muscle, you get the ominous feeling you're in the wrong place at the wrong time. First the crest, and then the crash!
The next thing you know you're off your feet, underwater, in a swirl of sand and bubbles. You're unsure which way is up, until you become all too familiar with the ocean floor, collecting sand in strange places. Finally, you're tossed up on the beach like a salty rag doll, with hair askew, eyes red and sinuses stinging.
I've been there! The lesson is seared in our memory; stay out of the the white water. As long as we avoid that unmanageable zone where everything moves fast, chaotic and unbounded, we can simply ride the waves and enjoy a day in the sun (without sand in strange places).
Our thoughts are like waves on the seas of life.
When our busy minds build momentum, wayward thoughts gather strength, crest, crash, and become chaotic. We can be emotionally up-ended, disoriented, battered, scathed, and spent. I can certainly relate to this scenario too.
I want to share a lesson that I've found tremendously helpful. If we can learn to observe our thoughts, we can carefully choose our position in relation to them, navigate away from the tumult, maintain our emotional footing, or simply float as the surge gently swells and ebbs away.
Daily mindfulness practice helps me stay out of the mental riptides that can carry my focus and attention away from where I want to be. Through regular use of mindfulness skills, I've learned that if I am aware of my thoughts, I'm less likely to be carried away by them. The more I practice paying attention to my mindwaves without getting caught up in them, I can stay on solid ground cognitively and emotionally. Gradually over time, I can say I experience peace of mind more often, don't get thrown off course as easily, and I can fall asleep faster during times of stress.
Of course, I still get knocked for a loop occasionally when I'm not paying attention. Thought surfing takes a lot of practice, but it is well worth the effort.
"You can't stop the waves,
but you can learn to surf."