Control Your Contentment
If you want to REALLY get to know yourself, learn to witness what you think about all day long.
We all experience the commentary - the incessant chatter that rambles on UNFILTERED, chiming in on every happening of our day. You could spend most of your life in perpetual conversation with yourself. Of course, the chatter isn't the threat, but the content of the chatter.
Control the content, control your contentment.
The commentary in your head follows you around, saturates your day, and regularly leads you to conclusion. That’s why it is important to take control of the chatter or, more importantly, take control of the content of your chatter. Because what you allow to linger in your mind and accompany you through your day has a direct affect on your well-being, your peace and your contentment.
Naturally, you probably can't control what thoughts come up nor can you stop the natural flow of thoughts through your mind. However, you can train in mindfully weeding out the thoughts that don't serve your happiness. As you practice this way of minding your thoughts, you'll find that a lot of the conversations that you host throughout the day may be feeding your dissatisfaction with life or your simply current situation. In any event, you could be the culprit behind your own unhappiness.
Our minds don't usually relish in how magical life is: how beautiful the day is, how amazing our abilities to breathe and speak and engage are. You may notice the sun and the flowers and the lovely weather, but it’s mostly a fleeting admiration before you’re struck by a more demanding problem or concern. Pleasantries don’t seem to generate quite as much momentum as their opposite. They taper off much quicker than do the fiercer subjects. Start to take notice.
Further, the negative thoughts that run your mind are generally quite useless to you and your contentment. How often does the criticizing and complaining in your mind lead you to feel GOOD or lead to any progression? When does it benefit you to keep going over and over a conversation, argument or encounter AFTER it has happened? Does your crippling anxiety ever lead to fruition or fulfillment? While all of those thoughts may seem relevant at the time, they almost always result in unfavorable emotions and outcomes that are counterproductive to your well-being, work and livelihood.
Your mind will always make the reality more dramatic than it is. Reality is very simple. What happened, happened. What is, is. You suffer when you allow yourself to continue on this destructive path of fruitless thought patterns. You suffer when you allow your mind's drama to fog the simplicity of reality.
We create our own suffering.
Pay attention to how often the chatter in your head leaves you angry, frustrated, uneasy or embarrassed. All it takes is one look, one sentence, one possibility. The commentary starts, and the drama heats up. In a matter of seconds, your mind comes up with every possible meaning behind an event, fabricates a story considering the ‘evidence’ you see, and draws a conclusion based on absolute illusion. Now, you’re no longer engaged in reality.
This is how we create our own suffering and forge our own embarrassment.
You get stuck in your story, and your story places a fog over your situation. As soon as you allow your commentary to manifest, you are entering a world of fiction, drama, illusion. Your mind will always make life appear more dramatic than it really is. This fictional drama generates real emotions.
Someone says something or does something, and you deliberate all the possible meanings, malices, maybe kindness that their words or actions could have contained. Then, you find yourself embarrassed by what you believe they meant. You grow hurt from their actions or what you think to be their intention. Yet, it’s all based on an assumption, a speculation.
I kind of think that is the simplest answer to curing your own discontent - recognizing that most often, it’s built based on speculation, illusion. If you can end the analyzations and assumptions as soon as they come up, you can avoid the unpleasant emotions that follow. If you can control the content of your mind, you can control your contentment.
I know we can create our own suffering because I’ve experienced it. When I started practicing being more mindful of my content, I found that so frequently I allowed my mind to manufacture a story that left me so embarrassed or furious or insecure. I could talk to myself for hours, even days, about one happening. I’d go over all the possible meanings, all the things I should have said or done, and all the things I should NOT have said or done in that instant. I would literally drive myself crazy. I also spent a lot of time irritated with others because of my observations and analyzations. I could really spiral a story. But that was just it. Then, I began filtering the content of my mind and extracting those stories and thoughts that were causing me anxiety or unhappiness. That might sound too hard or too easy, but I’ll tell you what - it worked. I got eliminated the causes of my unhappiness, and in doing so, I eliminated my unhappiness.
To conquer your anxiety, coexist with your anxiety.
Anxiety is probably the easiest scapegoat for your discontent in life. You could very well spend your entire life drowning in stress, just waiting for it to end. Indeed, there will ALWAYS be something to stress about. And it is actually extremely important to recognize this. There will never be an absolute end to your anxiety. Day to day, situation to situation, job to job, there is always a new reason to worry. As long as you are living, so are your reasons to be stressed.
To conquer your anxiety, you must learn to coexist with your anxiety.
It is a conscious decision to choose - over and over again - not to let yourself be suffocated by your own apprehensive mind. If you don’t learn to control your anxiety, it will control you. While your stress and the thoughts that arouse it may seem entirely relevant to the situation, no amount of anxiety is going to change any outcome or situation. Anxiety will simply make the experience and the activity more challenging. Whenever you catch yourself in a wave of seemingly insurmountable stress, remind yourself-no amount of anxiety is going to change anything that is going to happen. Say it to out loud; use it as a daily mantra. Live by it. Practice believing it until you do believe it. It will change your life.
The downfall of the fairytale.
Perhaps your chatter isn’t blatantly destructive to your well-being. Maybe you’re a daydreamer or a story spinner. You spend your reality in a whimsical fantasy land. Your life plays out in your mind like a movie, brimming with illusions of how an event will pan out: fantasizing tonight’s date, envisioning tomorrow’s presentation or proposal, or playing out a conversation in your mind that might never even happen. The problem with daydreaming is that it will leave you in anticipation with high expectations.
Your expectations can lead to disappointment.
Most often, you won’t ponder the worst case scenarios. Your daydreams reflect your hopes and ambitions - the best case scenarios. When we put too much weight in our expectations, we set ourselves up for disappointment and defeat. After all, expectations are merely presumptions. How many times have you anticipated an event, a party, a person, only to be let down by the actual experience? You thought about it for hours, days, weeks, going over and over the scene in your mind. Then it plays out completely different in real life. That’s because reality can’t compete with your imagination.
Expectations are different than goals. A goal is a specific result that we work toward over time through concentrated effort. An expectation is a presumption that something will happen a certain way. Expectations leave no room for mishap or possible diversion, and that is where you may set yourself up for letdown.
Practice. Drop the anticipation; drop the expectation. Allow the actual experience. You’ll save yourself a lot of grief! When you catch yourself daydreaming and setting up expectations around an event, put an end to it. It might seem like less fun in the short term, but it will result in lasting happiness in the longer term.
No more sitting, waiting, wishing.
Finally, extinguish the wanting and wishing. It is so easy to get lost in a cycle of longing. Especially when everything you do and everywhere you go someone is trying to sell you something. You see it online, on social media, on a billboard, on the side of a bus and you want it. Can’t afford it? Want it more. If you’re like me, you might even fill up your online “cart” with everything you want, only to ex out of the site before you splurge. Or maybe you just window shop. Sure, it’s self control, but it also still feeds your desires and leaves you wanting. Letting desires linger leads to more desire. It’s just like any other addiction. If you don’t dig up the roots, it will always come up.
When you are focused on your desires, it is challenging to enjoy reality. There will always be something bigger and better that comes along. To overcome your perpetual cycle of longing, you have to do more than refrain from indulging - because then you are still wanting. You have to retrain your mind to engage in what IS around you, rather than what you want around you. That doesn’t mean when something better does come along, you diminish it or find a flaw. You can acknowledge it, but know that you don’t need it. When you catch yourself wanting more or something else, redirect. All you need right now is already around you. Presence. Like anything else, it’s a practice. Over and over again, you train to end the longing.
Putting it to Practice
Mindful thinking is an endless process. Learning to control the content of your mind doesn’t happen quickly or easily. It entails your attention and active participation. It takes work; your happiness requires work. Don't expect to master the practice quickly, or even at all. It's a never-ending work-in-progress. You will still get caught up in your mind-blaming or condemning or even idolizing. It's human nature. But you have the knowledge and understanding to catch yourself in the act and create the conditions for your lasting happiness.
Catch yourself when the chatter starts. Get to know how it affects your emotions and your well-being. If it causes any anxiety or unease, you let go. The thought comes back up, you let go again-and again-and again-and again. It's an active form of meditating, something you practice all day long. By taking ownership of your commentary, you take control of your contentment.
I've been working on this for years, and I still constantly catch myself in conversation with myself. My husband says something (or doesn't say something), and my mind starts rambling on about how unhappy it made me or how wrong he was or why he should have done something differently. Drop the commentary. ‘But I am right , and he is wrong’ - drop the commentary. ‘But I'm really bothered’- drop the commentary. ‘But why doesn't he change’ - drop the commentary.
The more I practice, the less I resist the practice - and the less I resist life.
You can use the 3 Pillars of mindfulness (awareness, responsibility and discipline) to train in taking control.
1. Become aware of when the negative, violent, aggressive or fanatical thoughts come up in your mind. Be aware of how they tend to snowball on.
2. Take responsibility for your own content. You are the keeper of your own contentment. No one else, nothing else can cause you harm or pain or displeasure without your participation. No one control your mind but you.
3. Train in this mindfulness practice. Awareness and responsibility. Be the keeper of your own contentment. Guard your thoughts. If they don't serve your happiness or your PEACE, let them go. Let them go over and over until it becomes your norm - until peace becomes your norm.
Control your content, control your contentment. It may not come easy. The disgruntled thoughts will always try to bang down the doors to your mind, especially when things start to get quiet. But you continue to practice. Train in taking back control - all day, over and over. Like riding a bike or playing the piano, it gets easier in time. Witness your thoughts. Become aware of how they affect you, and take responsibility for their result on your contentment. Eventually it won't even seem like work anymore. It becomes the way.
Contentment and peace don't happen only when life is without obstacles. Your contentment exists amidst those obstacles, waiting for you to retreat back to it. So choose to shed the thoughts and behaviors that fog your contentment. Choose contentment because you can. Right here, right now you can choose to be fully content. It may seem forced and fake in the beginning. It may seem impossible. But with practice, patience and persistence, peace can become your norm.
Control your content, control your contentment.