I’m not sure how everyone else’s brain works, but I tend to think in pictures. I see things and do my best to explain what I’m seeing.
This may be true for you, too, or maybe you see or feel words. There’s no right way, however you experience your brain is fine.
But since I’m a visual thinker, I experience awareness and mindfulness like a library.
I envision sitting in a library surrounded by books. Some are on the floor wide open, some are right in my face begging to be read, some are placed neatly on the shelves, some are covered in dust.
The books in my face are usually things I’m worried about, or things that make me feel uncertain. I often read these books on autopilot, not even fully conscious of what or why I’m reading.
Awareness is recognizing what I’m doing.
Becoming aware is like “waking up” to the moment, realizing your brain is a processing machine having thoughts, or as I see it, reading books.
Understanding this is a lifetime practice, and some never realize it. They spend their lives believing they are the thoughts in their head, and they react to every thought they think.
We all occasionally fall into this trap, it’s just part of being human.
Awareness can momentarily separate us from our thoughts and the books in our head. Mindfulness is deciding if and when we would like to continue the story.
Sometimes it’s important to continue the story. Sometimes we need to fully experience a feeling or deal with an immediate problem.
When I’m sad and feeling pain about something that just happened, I know it’s important to stay there, to allow the sadness to move through me and allow my brain to process the experience.
But when an experience has passed, when there is nothing new to see or no tears left to cry, it’s time to close the book. Not throw the book away, but graciously and gratefully place it on a shelf labeled “life experience”.
Books don’t have to be read continuously to be honored.
If I’m lost and trying to get somewhere, I may need to keep lots of books open so I can figure out where to go or what to do next.
Once I’ve reached my destination, it’s probably time to put them away. This will save me from continuously rereading them and figuring out how I could have arrived better, faster, easier – unhelpful at this point.
It’s wonderful to take old books off the shelf if they create feelings of nostalgia or joy, but if they force you to relive a story you didn’t enjoy the first time around, you might want to reconsider.
Some books in the library aren’t even written yet, but inevitably you’ll pick them up and attempt to read the blank pages. We all do this.
You may think you know what the blank pages will eventually say. You may assume they’ll be like your old books or the books of others.
But you can’t really know, because the books aren’t written yet.
I’ve found it’s best to leave the blank books alone. Sometimes I stare lovingly at them and dream about the possibilities, but it’s super difficult to read a story that hasn’t happened yet.
The stories I love the most, and the ones I think you will really enjoy, are the ones that are happening right now. The ones that are being written before your eyes with your full attention.
They are stimulating, challenging, joy-filled, and they make you feel alive. They are never boring and they are always cliffhangers – you can never know for sure what happens next.
But that’s the way of every great story. No matter what, trust you have the tools and strength to manage the next chapter.
Don’t forget to take a break from the stories by practicing some kind of quiet time and getting a good night’s sleep. These are opportunities to shelve the books or at least set them down for awhile.
This is when you get to let go and realize you are bigger than the stories. You are the observer of your life experience.
You are the author and reader of your own book.
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