"So much of our thinking isn't fresh or original insights, it is habit. We spin around and around with our thoughts, digging ourselves deeper into self-created ruts."
This thinking process that Diane Mariechild (in Open Mind -- Women's Daily Inspirations for Becoming Mindful) describes as "spinning" is what I call "circular thinking" and another friend used to call "pacing." It seems we all do it, and giving it a name helps us begin to address it.
Circular thinking ensures that, even when we are alone and in a quiet place, we do not have silence. The chaos of noisy thoughts and the anxiety they produce make silence and stillness impossible.
Diane has a nice little practice to help us end circular thinking:
When you find your mind spinning in a rut:
Stop and take a deep breath
On the next inhale, think -- I breathe in clarity.
On the exhale, think -- I breathe out confusion.
Continue breathing this way: I breathe in clarity -- I breathe out clarity --
Chronic pain has its own circular thinking taking us down into spirals of regret and fear that mainly serve to make the pain worse as we tense up around our confused and agonized thoughts. I can't stand this again...No one understands...What about that task/meeting/event?...I hate spending so much time on the bed in pain...I have no life whatsoever... (I have posted before about how the stress of our response to pain makes it worse both physically and psychologically.)
When we have some measure of control over our wayward thoughts, and are sitting in silence (that means no music, even) and focusing on our breathing, we relegate the pain to a more realistic place. It never just goes away -- at least, it never has for me -- but it somehow seems less important. It takes up less real estate in my perception. That, although it doesn't sound like much, is a huge relief.
This is not to say that I don't take migraine medication when I can. But I end up managing about half of my migraines because insurance only allows 12 pills per month; that leaves me with another ten to fifteen days per month of pain.
Finally, I want to say that when we go into silence for meditation or pain management, we likely will come face to face with inner workings that we have been able to avoid in our busy, distracted lives. This is where a good counselor or spiritual guide come in. The effect of silence and stillness is profound, which for most of us means that we need accompaniment from a professional.
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