“There is either nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so” – Shakespeare from Hamlet.
We re-create situations in our minds, we replay, we embellish, we go over things again and again often critising ourselves in our own minds. We prejudice events that have happened, and more detrimental to our wellbeing, we prejudice events in the future, we judge events before they have even happened! Let’s look at an example, my family and I are looking to go out for dinner tonight, we are currently on holiday and therefore don’t know the ‘good’ places to go, ultimately we are clean pages and should have no judgement or expectation about our final choice of restaurant. Wouldn’t life be easy if that was the case? Sadly, it’s not the way, especially when you are trying to accommodate 6 people. Without even thinking about it we had already prejudiced our decision by influencing factors such as cost, local know how and past experiences, for example, “I had honey chicken in 1989 and I didn’t like it”, “Last time I had a pub meal I paid a fortune for it”, etc. Our heads are full of internal chatter that doesn’t allow us to live in the moment.
One of the most difficult aspects of becoming mindful is to do so without judgement. Often our internal chatter is negative, either about ourselves, or others, or situations. I began this article with a quote from William Shakespeare, stating that things are not good or bad until we place a judgement on them. We often catastrophize things before they happen; we let the worst happen in our heads, and we struggle to see any positives. Let’s take that dinner example again, I would be quite happy just to stay in, but I am just as happy to head out. If I really didn’t want to go I could make up all sorts of excuses and justify them with my internal chatter, for example, we can’t afford it, it will be crowded, we will have to wait a long time for our meals, it will be noisy – I have managed to ruin the outing with negative self-talk before I even get in the shower. I could also take the flip side with my internal chatter, I deserve to go out, I shouldn’t have to cook every night, it will be great to get out. So you can see how our internal chatter places judgement on events, people and situations. We are too busy predicting the future or worrying about the past, we actually forgot to live this particular moment.
Recently I was driving inland and running low on fuel, in order to fill up I would have had to pull off the highway and enter a town – I quickly did the sums in my head and reasoned that I should be fine until the next town on the highway. My heart sank a little as I left civilisation and passed a sign that said “Next fuel 120kms”, but I continued on. I chose to live in the present, I enjoyed the drive and I enjoyed my music and I did not let negative thoughts of ‘what if….’ enter into my present. When the fuel light came on with 30 kilometers still to go, I simply slowed my speed and slipped in behind a semi-trailer and decided that if worse came to worst I would simply worry about things at that moment, not at this moment. I had a lovely drive and I did not allow the ‘what ifs’ creep in and take me away from the present and I made it to the next service station without leaving the highway.
I will finish up with a Quote from Groucho Marx –
“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy with it”