Like many, I think too much. My mother affectionately informs me that I "worry too much." I wake up in the morning and mobilize in autopilot. I have a set routine - make tea, take my Scheussler salts, drink water with lemon juice and wait an hour before breakfast to cleanse my system. Then, I eat my English muffins, a boiled egg, and oatmeal. Go on laptop check Facebook, school stuff, and internship. This is about the time that my internal monologue begins rapidly spewing its orders:
Go meditate. You need to get out into the sun. Maybe you should take a walk. Where are your earbuds? Oh god where is that damn card from the hairdresser. You slept too late. You really should do this and that.
There are too many "shoulds" and not enough action. I am always worried that I am not doing something or am doing too much of nothing. I begin to ruminate and agonize. I become deflated and get nothing done. My mind can never shut off.
I recently read an article through Psych Central that many people have cognitive distortions. We have black and white, isolated thoughts that can deter us from reaching our goals. What is interesting is that many people suffer from a series of self-defeating mantras and attitudes that righteously contribute to their state of unhappiness. What was most poignant in the article is this quote: We hold other people responsible for our pain, or take the other track and blame ourselves for every problem.
It’s very easy to scapegoat others when we feel we have nothing to gain. I have learned from personal experience that blame perpetuates the cycle of hatred and pain. In the Dhammapada, there is a translation of Chapter 1 The Pairs which explains the ramifications of blame:
"He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me."
Those who harbor such thoughts
do not still their hatred.
Just as a storm throws down a weak tree,
so does Mara overpower the man
who lives for the pursuit of pleasures,
who is uncontrolled in his senses,
immoderate in eating, indolent, and dissipated.
Just as a storm cannot prevail against a rocky mountain,
so Mara can never overpower the man
who lives meditating on the impurities,
who is controlled in his senses,
moderate in eating, and filled with faith and earnest effort.
Despite the idyllic wisdom, it is not easy to “still” our hatred or thoughts. It is a process and a pathway that includes grief, pain, and all the negativity in the world we wish to nullify. I know that I am no exception from this. Sometimes I believe that I am different from everyone, but as I begin to communicate with others I come to discover that they are just as flawed and mundane as I am. I make effort to remind myself that I am not an island but the difficulty with that is if we do not connect with each other we can gravitate towards isolation. Isolation breeds self-loathing that can birth the cycle of blame if the potency of our feelings don’t have a foundation.
Self-loathing can transform into anger and rage which can eliminate the fabric of empathy and compassion. Blame becomes thought-patterns that lead towards selfishness. Buddha teaches us it is cruel speech, thoughts, and actions that breed selfishness. Selfishness, if unchecked, can produce pain that can coincide with self-loathing.
So instead of being selfish which is often negative, why not love yourself? Love yourself for the qualities that you have. Reward yourself being the wonderful being that you are. There is a fine line between being selfish and having self-esteem. Self-esteem allows us to be compassionate and gentle with ourselves. There is a certain of type of meditation which allows us to cultivate this.
During moments when I do meditate, I often practice something called Metta. The literal translation for Metta is “loving-kindness”. Metta is different from most meditation because it invokes a “boundless warm-hearted feeling” which teaches us the necessary compassion we should have for ourselves. It is different from most other practices since it performs both interdependent and self-loving thoughts and feelings.
To do this sort of meditation, find your “Zen” space in your house and sit comfortably on a cushion. Hell, you can even lay in bed and do this if it makes you feel comfortable. Inhale and exhale about three times and release physical tension and thoughts – any doubt or worry that you have and just relish the moment. Begin to focus solely upon these thoughts as your mind empties of negativity:
May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.
Don’t just think these statements. Say them aloud and believe in them. Metta practice is about loving-kindness and intentionally wishing ourselves and others joy that we forget in daily life. If you lose your focus, try to imagine a visual that elicits your innate “warm fuzziness”. It’s suggested that the image be of oneself so that reinforcement of the mantra can be executed. Focus on this about ten minutes or so and then gradually begin to transfer your thoughts to others. Begin with people who are closest to you and state or think these words:
May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.
Gradually transfer your thoughts towards neighbors, pets, and someone you saw on the street today. Perhaps the most difficult part of this practice are well wishes towards enemies, people we dislike, or those who have wronged us. We must remember that compassion is universal. Don’t force yourself to consider them if it is too difficult for you. Remember that meditation and forgiveness are a process and that success is not made over night. Try doing this at least once a day for eight minutes. In most Buddhist traditions, meditation is twenty minutes for twice a day. Some practice several times a day with breaks in between. Awareness is not a competition so do what you feel is best for yourself. Though, the more you practice, the better your outlook will be. It is prudent to at least time out for yourself each day because in this fast paced world, we need to remember that love and compassion are not on a time clock. Take some time out today and attempt this. Take a moment to build your self-esteem and respect for others. Stop .overthinking and start loving.