Do you find yourself laying awake at night, unable to set aside the events of the day? Does your mind keep going back to the bills you have to pay, to the aggressive coworker, to some medical problem? Use these brief meditations from my new book, A Mindful Evening, to put yourself at ease so that you can rejuvenate yourself each evening. The entry for each night has an inspiring quote, a brief reflection, and an exercise for you to complete at your own pace. Check out these three samples:
No More Second-Guessing
May the stars carry your sadness away,
May the flowers fill your heart with beauty,
May hope forever wipe away your tears,
And, above all, may silence make you strong.
— Chief Dan George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation
How much time do you spend running scenarios in your head, with thoughts like, Perhaps I should have done this instead... or, maybe if I had chosen x instead of y...? Implicit in this kind of exercise is an imaginary comparison between the present state of affairs and some imagined better state of affairs. This sort of thought exercise posits an alternate reality and then invidiously compares the present reality to the, well, fake reality. You will almost never come out ahead in such mental exercises, so it is best to stop running the scenarios as soon as possible. Say a mantra or recite the Declaration of Independence. Most thoughts are better than the proverbial Monday morning quarterback exercise of examining the past.
This evening, you may find yourself second-guessing something you did today. You may be replaying some incident in your mind again and again. Try talking about the situation with a loved one. Do some sacred reading or silent meditation. Lift the situation up to your favorite saint or spirit guide. Do anything other than continuing to ruminate on what you imagine that you did wrong. Who knows, maybe in the light of the not-too-distant future, it will become clear that your actions were entirely correct.
Communication is life-alienating when it clouds our awareness that we are each responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions.
—Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication
The most difficult thing of all is the control of our own thoughts and emotions. If we wrestle with them directly, this often just magnifies the problem. I am angry, so I think about the source of my anger, which then focuses the emotion, just as a magnifying glass intensifies the solar energy coming from the sun. One can redirect attention toward something entirely unrelated, one can practice mantra or silent meditation, one can physically relocate into a less stressful environment. These are ways of circumventing the disturbing emotion without magnifying it. A general on the battlefield has an array of techniques for attacking the enemy: Some rely on stealth; others are more direct. In the same way, we need many ways of confronting reactive thoughts and their accompanying emotional states.
This evening, take a look at one part of your home that causes you emotional distress. Paying very close attention to your mental and emotional space, clean and rearrange that space, being very careful not to arouse resentment or other negative reactions. Clear the space mindfully, keeping alert to any possible disturbances, internal or external. Continue until you have calm inside and order outside.
Broken Yet Whole
Ignorance conceals the pre-existent knowledge just as water plants cover over the surface of a pond. Clear away the plants and you have the water. You don’t have to create it; it is already there.
—Sri Sai Baba of Shirdi, Hindu saint
At bottom, every person on earth wants to be loved and included, to be nurtured, to have the basic necessities of life. When people feel the need for love and caring violated, when they do not feel safe, when the necessities are unreachable, societies fracture into civil unrest. On a more interpersonal level, every broken personality trait stems from a misguided attempt to compensate for the absence of care in childhood. The first task of every society must be to care for the children. The second task must be to right the wrongs of the past.
This evening, as you gaze onto your own inner landscape, you may be quite aware of the broken places, of the fractured nature of your own mind and personality. As you watch your own inner turmoil, breathe deeply and relax. You do not need to improve yourself. You do not need to do more or be more than you are. Accept yourself and this moment as it is. Let go of the drive to achieve.