I have been practicing a technique called ‘mindfulness’, which emphasizes the value of the present moment. “Be here now”, I keep telling myself because all I have is ‘now’. My past is full of pain, mistakes, and regrets as well as some happy and exciting times. However, I, just like many people, narrowly focus on the negatives and not the positives. The positives are conveniently camouflaged amongst the overbearing shadow of the negatives.
The past has trickled through our hands, like the sand on the beach.
The other extreme is the future. “What will I do after I graduate?” “I don’t think I will be able to get into optometry school” “What if my husband gets sick of me and leaves me?” (I have seriously thought about the last one).
The future is a tiny dot on the canvas. It will take shape and present itself once the time is right. It is impossible to know the future from where we stand, because, by definition, it is afar and not something we can achieve since we only live in the present.
All we are left with to change, alter, or improve is the present. Mindfulness tells us to watch our thoughts from a distance, silently and observantly, without judging or criticizing them, and make note of them. Then, just as the past trickles away from us, we let these thought float away.
One particular exercise that I learned was very helpful. Setting a timer for 5-10 minutes, find a comfortable place to sit and relax. Breathe slowly and deliberately. Notice the thoughts that come to your mind. Just notice them. Do not judge or criticize them. Notice them come and then, envision a creative image, where you let them go. You could imagine that they are formed into the clouds and slowly float away, as I did. Or you could be more creative and come up with something else.
I used different kinds of imagery while picturing my thoughts leaving, but after a while, came up with the clouds floating away (since it is easier to imagine).
Here are some of the other ones I imagined:
-I am sitting on a tree, and I see my thoughts coming out of my head, becoming fruits on the tree and falling to the holes in the ground (conveniently dug up by beavers). The dirt fills the holes.
-I see my thoughts on a plain piece of paper, which I crumble and throw in the garbage. The garbage is taken away on a huge truck and dumped into a big hole somewhere, and covered with dirt.
This strategy empowers you in two ways. First, it acknowledges the fact that there is something that is possibly bothering you, yet you do not let it. Second, it forces you to let go of those thoughts without being critical. This exercise works wonders for me, but I still have a long way to go before I master it.