What if . . .
In my deeper exploration of meditation and the gifts of mindfulness, I have had the great pleasure of working with private clients and groups to explore how mindfulness can help us in so many ways - - with stress, anxiety, fear, depression. I also have seen in my work, especially with kids and teens, that we often focus on what is wrong. If we are not acting or feeling or thinking or achieving in a way that we feel we should or we are being told we should, then something is wrong. Then, people often ask the deep and heartfelt question, "What is wrong with me?"
I was struck by the profound question, so beautifully explored in the passage below, What if nothing is wrong? What a relief to know that whatever we are thinking, experiencing, doing or not doing, feeling or not feeling is NOT wrong. Instead, what if this is just what we are experiencing right now, not who we are, and we are OK?
- a meditation by Megan Cowan
What if everything is OK?
What if regardless of what is happening in my external circumstance, in my internal world, I am ok?
What if everything that is happening is not a mistake?
What if I didn’t do anything wrong?
What if what is happening is in service of a deeper understanding of myself and others?
What if a busy mind is not wrong?
What if sleepiness is not wrong?
What if anxiety is not wrong?
What if I could occupy my being without relating to it as if something is missing or needs to be changed?
What if I trusted the arising of each moment?
What if any resistance that comes from my heart or mind or body is completely let go?
What would it feel like to let go of all efforts and ideas of how things should be?
What if I let go of any idea of what I think perfect looks like?
What if everything could come and go freely without me clinging to it?
What if thoughts could simply come and go?
What if fear could simply come and go?
What if clarity could simply come and go?
What if ease could simply come and go?
What if discomfort could simply come and go?
What if I could relate to all of my experience with the stillness of a tree, the fluidity of water and the brightness of sunshine?
What if I risk putting down my strategies of self-protection and see what is underneath?
What if I trust that I am supported?
What if I trust that the answers will come in due time?
What if I am ok?
What if everything is as it should be?
We so often have the mental habit of focusing on what is wrong. In fact, through evolution we have a deep-seeded negativity bias. A remnant from our cave dwelling days, this negativity bias helped us stay alive by keeping us focused on the potential dangers around us. We see now, in our modern world where we are no longer regularly met with threats to our survival, that we still tend to focus on the negative. We have negative thoughts and self-judgment that can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.
This beautiful meditation, What If, highlights how we can reverse that mental conditioning from negativity to positivity, trust and acceptance. As we become more and more aware of our thoughts through the practice of mindfulness, we begin to see our mental habits and the stories we are telling ourselves, which are often about what is missing, what we want to change or what is wrong. These thoughts are the lens through which we see ourselves and the world. These thoughts are often the point from which we plan or set goals, trying to fix what’s wrong or get somewhere else other than where we are. This mental habit can be a great source of suffering.
Think of what a beautiful gift it would be to ourselves and to our children to no longer highlight what is wrong, but to understand that doing things differently or being different is what makes us unique and is our own unique path.
A little mindfulness practice to flip the script . . .
(1) Bring Awareness to Your Thoughts. The first step in flipping the script of negativity is to be aware of your thoughts and notice your mental patterns.
(2) Let Go of Judgment. Then, let go of judgment. Remind yourself that doing things differently or in an unexpected way is not wrong, it is just different. Whatever you are experiencing holds information and is a deep source of insight. In this letting go comes acceptance, an acceptance that this is simply what you are experiencing right now.
(3) Trust. Lastly, trust that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Trust that in each moment there is an opportunity to learn from your experience. Trust that your deepest struggles are an opportunity for growth and transformation.
In this process comes a letting go, a sense of peace and a deep freedom to be exactly as you are right now, which is the only way forward.