There is a tradition on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog. Every Monday, I cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding. So for today, here is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Not he is great who can alter matter, but he who can alter my state of mind.”
I’d have to agree with Emerson. When you really think about it, having our minds altered is powerful as it shades our perception of reality. If something has control over my mind, it can influence me to do anything it wants. Our minds have the potential of been filled with all kinds of distressing thoughts. There may be thoughts that we’re a success or a failure. There may be thoughts that we feel equal to others or that we never measure up. Or maybe there’s thoughts that say, “If I just had (fill in the blank), then I’d be happy.”
There are powerful influences at play in our media that really do alter our states of mind. Unfortunately, they’re usually influencing them with thoughts of “If you don’t have (fill in the blank), then you’ll be unhappy.”
Right after Thanksgiving ended I walked into a Target to get a couple things and lo and behold all of the Christmas decorations were up. Immediately I sensed an opening in me, a state of cheerfulness and a desire to shop.
There is some kind of Pavlovian conditioning in most of us around this time that borders around spending, spending, spending.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, our economy needs a boost so it would be helpful to spend. We can also view it as a time to be generous and really give to others.
However, the real question is who is choosing your state of mind? Is it you or is it the media?
Take this as an opportunity to choose your state of mind going into this week and through the New Year.
Here are a few steps to make sure you are the one in control of your mind:
- Set an intention – Take a moment to really consider how you want to be throughout the rest of the holidays. If you’re going to be with family and friends, how would you like to be with them (e.g., present, listening, playful)? Or maybe the holidays are a grieving time for you this year. How can you be gentle with yourself?
- Be present – In order to pay attention to this intention, it’ll be important to integrate some practice that brings you to the present moment. This might be a mindfulness practice such as coming to the breath, or maybe closing the eyes and listening to sounds, or maybe taking a moment to look at all the sights around you. Or maybe reading through the Free Mindful Companion Ebook and allowing that to center and ground you.
- Make Meaning – The holidays are meant to be a time of meaning. For Christmas, if it is meaningful, you might consider what the birth of Jesus means to you, or if that isn’t meaningful, you might consider the meaning of being in the rare experience of spending time with people you don’t see often. Or if your holiday is Kwanzaa, you might reflect upon the meaning of your African heritage and culture. No matter your spiritual background, this can be a time to just stop, reflect and make meaning from your life.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.