[Listen to me read this reflection here]
Survive or thrive?
Reflect for a second about which one of these two words resonates the most in this moment.
If it is to survive, that’s understandable. There is a lot happening in the outside world, and possibly in the inside world. I have experienced more moments than I care to remember of feeling stuck in survival mode. It is not only unpleasant but I have felt helpless and hopeless.
In those moments, it is convenient for me to blame circumstances that are outside of my control or other people. While it may be true or justified, it does not help me to feel different. I am still stuck.
Mindset is the bridge for me to move from surviving to thriving. And one that I have to continue to cross, as it’s a two way bridge.
Mindset is really all I have to work with in those moments when I feel not in control of my life. To move from surviving to thriving starts with setting the intention to do so, as it does not happen on its own for most of us.
When I began my meditation journey, I wanted a clear mind. I believed that a clear mind meant a mind clear of thoughts.
However, after years of practicing a diverse menu of mindfulness practices, I did not experience my mind to be clear of thoughts. Quite the opposite actually. I became more aware of just how many thoughts flooded my mind. The thoughts were not only plenty, they also continued to change, making it difficult to keep tabs on them.
What I have now realized is that a clear mind means that I can see more clearly the thoughts in my mind. It is not about clearing my mind of thoughts but rather seeing clearly the thoughts that are there. To see clearly means to understand.
A clear mind asks me to bring the courage and strength required to see, like actually see, the thoughts in my mind. And here is the thing: not all of these thoughts are wonderful to look at. As I become aware more of the thoughts in my mind, I begin to see both desirable and undesirable thoughts. Awareness does not discriminate.
This is where the inner journey begins. When I step into the kitchen of my mind.
Once I am aware of my thinking, which includes the thoughts, emotions, feelings, ideas, fears, anxieties, insecurities, hopes, desires and sensations, I now have ingredients to work with.
Some of these ingredients are best consumed fresh, like a piece of fruit. If I wait too long, then it is no longer delicious and can be dangerous.
Some of these ingredients should be cooked, like garlic or onion. To consume these raw can really sting, however their properties change when given some heat.
Some of these ingredients need to be mixed in with other ingredients, like salt. On its own makes no sense, however combined with something else is better.
And some of these ingredients need time, like a stew whose flavours become richer days later. To give it the space to be, without trying to force, change or hurry it, gives the benefits that only time can offer.
A mindset to survive is to sit in a restaurant with no menu, and wait to be served. I have no choice, no agency and no influence on what dish I will be served and how it will be prepared. The only choice I have is to accept what is given to me, or to be disappointed with what is given to me. It still does not change the dish that is sitting in front of me.
A mindset to thrive is to walk into the kitchen at the restaurant, to take stock of the ingredients available and to decide what I will cook. It is to take control of how the dish will be prepared, which ingredients will be included and more importantly, which ingredients will not be included today.
All of the thoughts that flow through my mind have different properties and purposes. When I cross the bridge from surviving to thriving, I enter into the kitchen of my mind. I become a chef, one who is constantly cooking up unique recipes with the ingredients that I have to work with.
Like any good chef, I do not identify with any of the ingredients in front of me. They are what they are. I get to choose how, and if, to use them.