One of the most consistent questions that I get from my clients is, “How can I get my mind around that?” For many years, I countered that question with the statement “It’s a matter of choice.”, and then went into a little spiel about willingness to change (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1982).
Yesterday, I was speaking with a client about insecurity and, in a moment of clarity, a number of ideas that I typically proffer independently of one another came together. I found myself drawing a parallel between meditation and the choice-point that I have been talking about for so long.
One of the elements of sitting meditation practice is an effort to release what is called discursive thought. Discursive thought is background noise — it’s the rehearsal of the conversation that we had with our boss during the course of the day, or the cat that we need to feed, or the new book we’d like to read, or the price of gas… In its most destructive form, it is what are often called the “old tapes” that play inside our head.
The technique for releasing discursive thought, while sitting, is to simply recognize that we are engaged in it and to say to ourselves, “Thinking.” This simple act of recognition and acknowledgement brings us back to our breath. It brings us back to a state of simplicity and just being.
Now, here’s the parallel. When we are confronted with an unwanted emotional state, or an unwanted line of thinking or pattern of behavior, if we are able to recognize and acknowledge it (big if), we can then say to ourselves, in much the same way we might when sitting, “Thinking.”, or something that might be more appropriate to the situation such as, “You’re doing it again.”, or “You’re going there.”, or “What’s that about?”, or, my personal favorite – “Knock it off.”. The practice or technique is about bringing us back to our center, to the place we want to be, as opposed to the place we are headed.
The point here is that recognition and acknowledgement create the choice-point. So, that old psychodynamic mantra of awareness-recognition-acknowledgement does, ultimately, have a pragmatic and productive application. You know what you’re doing, you see that you’re doing it, you say that you’re doing it…now, do something with it.
After all that, it’s just a question of choosing to act – uh oh, there’s that karma thing again. Make a choice, change your circumstances…change your circumstances, change your life.