“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of heaven.” —John Milton
Sometime during my fifth year around the sun, I was invited to my friend Marie-Eve’s birthday party. I bounced all around the walls with excitement for the day ahead. Dressed in my favorite blue overall corduroy for the special occasion, I was feeling incredible in my best ‘80s fashion.
In a sparkling purple bag, I packed the popular “Polly Pocket” present I had chosen for Marie-Eve. (Teeny-miniature dolls that literally fit in your nostrils. They stopped producing them in 2002, most likely because of too many nostril incidents). It was a lively party, with everyone’s faces beaming. A multitude of delicious snacks was presented on a Care Bears tablecloth. A donkey-shaped piñata hung from the basement ceiling, and in the backyard was a sprinkler hose we had a blast jumping through, pretending it was a stupendous waterfall. The best part of this birthday bash was the oodles of floating multicolored helium balloons we took great pleasure inhaling to get a high-pitched, funny-sounding voice. (After killing a few people in the ‘90s and seriously injuring others, we now know breathing helium is a poor idea – but it was quite the party trick back then, blessed were the ‘80s!). Later in the afternoon, I sat on the basement floor, eating a sumptuous piece of chocolate cake with a side of ketchup chips (so Canadian, hey) while watching my friend’s sister carry chairs above her head across the room to create more seats for the grown-up. During one of her trips, a chair hit a lightbulb, which exploded instantly from the impact, and glass shattered everywhere. We were instructed to stay still while the adults cleaned the dangerous remaining of the bulb from the carpet. I watched the whole thing nonchalantly, absorbed into my odd combo flavor of ketchup and chocolate.
Once the floor was again safe to adventure on, one of the kids walked toward me with a look of terror on her face. Her eyes bulged, and her mouth dropped so low that her chin almost touched her belly button, and a fountain of tears started rolling down her cheeks. Worried, a few people came over and gave me the same horrified expression. Someone yelled, “There’s been an accident! Someone’s call Emilie’s mother!”
Confused, I got to my feet. Suspended on the wall in front of me was a gold-framed mirror. What I saw shook me, and I immediately began crying. There was an inch-tall piece of shattered glass standing straight into my nose, right between both of my eyes, accompanied by a movie-like river of blood flowing down my face. Once I could see the damage, I began feeling a throbbing pain radiating from my nose.
My mom arrived minutes later and took me to the nearest emergency room, where the doctor simply removed the glass. He told me I would probably look like I lost a rough boxing match for a week or two, and would get a little scar on my nose, as all good injury stories do. I walked out with no stitches and a green Band-Aid covering my cut. As it turned out, I kept both a scar and a bump to remind me of that day. As I was only five back then, the silver lining that came from it was that I got an exciting tale to share with my kindergarten pals. Years later, that little damaged spot on my nose is now the holder of great wisdom.
That wisdom is that things often appear way worse than they are, and that has been proven true many times over throughout my life. We often make a massive deal from things that are no deal at all. We see situations, changes, and challenges like a dramatic and scary bloody mirror scene, yet more often than not, it ends up being just a sharp little cut, leaving us with nothing more than a temporary face ornament.
Have you ever received bad feedback at work, convinced you were about to get fired? Maybe your partner criticized you once on a grumpy morning, and you thought he would soon break up with you, or that time a friend didn’t return your call, and you were sure she was no longer interested in hanging with you? Why is it that we see things as scarier than they are? Why do we often assume the worst?
As it turns out, it’s just a bad (and unconscious) habit of negative thinking. A cognitive distortion that was created as a result of a traumatizing childhood event. That moment in time formed a belief, that creates our now reality and enables a flexible response to our current experiences. Negative thinking is one of the most unproductive and toxic things we can do to ourselves. We create horrible stories based on nothingness. We indulge in the scariest scenario, which creates real and tangible anxiety within our bodies. If we are born on planet Earth (greetings to all multidimensional beings reading this, and welcome to our messy and entertaining human experience) – the chances are, this is an unconscious response and programming from our direct environment: family and friends, educational institution, culture, and media. It also is a protective mechanism. When something bad happened once, we tend to expect it to repeat itself. If we expect things to go south, then we can’t be disappointed if they turned out to be bad, right? It may sound logical and safe for our emotional health to protect our psyche in this way, but it’s a destructive pattern. What we expect and pour energy into, we most likely get.
Having spent hundreds of useless hours imagining Hollywood-type horror scenarios (and I still indulge in such useless thinking in my weak moments), I can testify that the only thing it has ever brought me is poor self-esteem, distress, and some serious chewing-the-inside-of-my-cheeks type of anxiety. The good news about this repetitive habit (all minds are repetitive when untrained) is that any behavior brought into consciousness can be transformed. With awareness, we can catch ourselves when spinning down the negative slide, redirect our attention to the present moment, and shape our thoughts more positively and expansively.
Mindfulness and embodiment are the keys (and, let me preach for a split second here: mindfulness and embodiment are the keys in every part of the human experience). To be mindful is to recognize when we are no longer attentive to the now and present in our bodies.
To bring us back in the present, away from the chaos we fabricated with our scattered minds, the most efficient tool is simply connecting to our breaths and bringing our attention back to our body by focusing on parts of it or engaging in some type of movement. For example, we could bring our attention to our belly moving to the rhythm of freshly inhaled air, feeling our feet grounded on the chilly morning grass, directing our attention on our resting tongue sitting at the roof of our mouth, or have a dance party in the living room. Once grounded back to reality, we can finally see things as they just are, which are always neutral in their essence.
We can train our minds to be quieter and more intentional with a consistent mindfulness practice. This simple act is instantly calming and uplifting our spirit for the time being, and therefore, exponentially increasing the chances of attracting favorable outcomes. What you seek, is seeking you. All is vibrations, and vibrations of the same frequency will always find each other. This is the deepest truth I know of, and it’s a delightful, and empowering realization to come to. If we cultivate the habit of seeing possibilities instead of limitations, we then notice our inner world shift into a peaceful, abundant, and safe space.