Friday, October 07, 2016

Thoughts are like balloons - you can let them go

I took a mindfulness course the other day and something the teacher said really struck a chord.

"Imagine that a thought is like a helium filled balloon floating up in front of you. You can grab it and hold it for a long time, and with very little effort, or you can let it go and it will float away.

Balloons keep coming and that's fine. Mindfulness doesn't tell you to pretend they're not there, they do exist, they are going to keep coming, all kinds of them, all day long. But mindfulness helps us choose which ones do we really want to hold and which ones, instead, should we simply notice without reaching for them, acknowledge without grabbing and evaluating them, and let them float on by. Because that's what balloons do if we just relax and let them do it. Don't hold bad ones, grab better ones. Hold when it helps you, let go when it doesn't.

Here's another comparison. Imagine you're listening to music at a concert and a song comes up that you don't like. You wouldn't rush up on stage and yell 'stop this song!', and you certainly wouldn't record the song you hate, then leave the concert immediately so you can play the hated song over and over, and keep dwelling on how much you hate it. But sometimes, that's exactly what we do with our own unwelcome thoughts and feelings. We record them and replay them over and over. Don't resist them. Don't replay them. Better songs are coming."

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