I’m walking through the grocery store and all of a sudden I’ll realize that I'm holding my breath. Or was I just taking shallow breaths? Why do I feel so tense? Once i’ve remembered to breath I realize that all of my breaths are coming from my chest and there is some weird tension in my stomach. I take a deep full belly breath and think about what was running around unsupervised on my mind that could have sparked that mess. The sense of creeping anxiety is a quietly lingering sensation and I realize I was thinking about something that happened yesterday and what it would mean for the week moving forward. A mind without deliberate thought, delegation and awareness can slip all too easily into the past or into the future where the dreaded anxiety monster thrives.
He sits there with his stories, his judgments, his expectations and assumptions waiting for us to step out of the present and into his dining room. With our thoughts running wild and untamed we are doomed. If we stay here, a down spiral starts its dizzy, rapid spinning. All of a sudden, without realizing it, all of your senses remember the sensations surrounding your past thought, or maybe your heart starts to race and you panic thinking about what it means for the future. Little do you know all this time you have the control. YOU are the creator of your feelings by being the chooser of your thoughts, so why not change them? What could be possible with focus and commitment to what’s happening in the present?
Even if you check into the present and it feels ‘bad’ you’re one step closer to a new feeling coming in. I’ve learned and learned again that letting my thoughts hang out anywhere but the present does not serve me. And if I’m spending time doing things that don’t serve me, I cannot be of service to others.
So here’s how I wrangle my thoughts: I tap into my five senses. Sight, Sound, Taste, Touch and Smell. I have found that it is impossible to be anywhere but the present if I tune in carefully and with curiosity as to what is happening with each of my senses in that very moment.
Ready to try? To start, take a deep breath. Imagine your belly and rib cage expanding at the same rate. Repeat a few times then go down the list of your sense and carefully articulate what is happening with each one.
Sight: what do you see? Colors? Light? Objects? People?
Sound, what do you hear? Maybe birds, a car, the hum of an electronic or wind?
Taste, what does your mouth taste like? Give it a name.
Touch, what do you feel kinesthetically? Does the air skin feel warm or cool? What do your clothes feel like on your skin?
Smell, what do you smell? Is it sweet, earthy or sour?
The minute you checkin you have the advantage.
You have an opportunity to slow down and regroup. So maybe you’ve checked in and you’re feeling back on track - great! Use this tool anytime you find yourself drifting. But what if you’ve gotten to the present by utilizing your senses, just to realize you still feel bad about what happened… only presently? Here's the next step: Identify the thought and choose another one. So presently I’m thinking, “I really wish Susie would take some initiative. It makes me so mad that she’s so lazy.” If I were to choose another thought that would make me feel better, maybe it look something like, “This thought pattern is not serving me so I choose to respect myself enough to let this one go.” Or, “I wonder why Susie isn’t taking initiative? Maybe there’s something else going on. I will commit to talking to her on Monday as if she is innocent.” Or whatever. The key here is, you have a say in what you think. And what you think directs the scene of how you feel. If you don’t feel good, chances are you're not tuned in! Check into your 5 senses and give yourself a little space and a lot of grace to just be where you are. This, by the way, is where your life is.