Sometimes you do something fux and everything feels sux and you spend a bunch of time chewing your cud. You reflect, you ponder, review and consider, torturing yourself with replays of moments past or fantasizing about an imaginary future, totally forgetting now. But the mystics and the pop positivists will all tell you that this kind of rumination is bad.
First, don’t feel bad. We all do it. But do feel a little bad, like bad enough to stop and replace your thoughts with something more constructive.
Why? Because you will feel better — because, quite simply, you will be soothing yourself rather than running your wheels along ruts that demand no more depth.
A buddhist parable illustrates this point poignantly. Two monks are walking and meet a woman at a riverbank who needs help crossing over. One monk carries her across the river. The other disapproves and that evening asks his companion, “Why did you take that lady?”
He replies, “I put her down at the edge of the river, and yet you are still carrying her."
That is not to suggest that we need never reflect, rather, that we direct our thinking when it is not serving the proper functioning of the mind, as there is no prize at the end of our lives given to the person who was most worried or distracted by the past.
How we decide what serves our minds is a process and also depends on context. Sometimes a mind benefits from a good flick or comic, sometimes from a long, quiet sit, and sometimes it needs to be tricked. So pick a mantra or a poem or a quote that inspires and memorize it (you’ll see — impossible to think of what’s bothering you while committing words to memory). Then just repeat it to return to now whenever you realize you are veering into worry and anxiety, regrets, remorse and revenge fantasies.
Just like we wouldn’t let a car be driven without anyone steering, we can drive our minds so that what we are hearing improves the quality of our moments, and turns petty lives into funny poetry.
Or, in the words of Rumi:
Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought!
Why do you stay in prison
When the door is so wide open?”
With a final thought from Hafiz:
We should make all spiritual talk simple today
God is trying sell you something but you dont want to buy
That is what your suffering is:
your fantastic haggling
your manic screaming