You know the old idiom, “a watched pot never boils?” While we all know water will boil in the same amount of time whether or not we’re hovering over it, the true meaning of this phrase is more about patience. If you stare at the pot, time appears to be at a standstill. Of course, if you occupy yourself with something else while waiting for the pot to boil, it will be boiling over before you know it.
But, when it comes to emotional reaction to mind activity or external stressors, I say WATCH the pot! When a simmering mind full of thought goes unwatched, it most definitely can boil over in the form of fear, anxiety, depression, anger, etc.
Being aware of physical reactions to stress and keenly observing thought patterns can quickly take the wind out of your mind’s sails, and the reaction itself becomes diminished.
Instead of trying to push the thoughts, feelings, or physical reactions away (we call this resistance), bring your awareness to them. Notice what happens with your muscles, particularly in your shoulders, between your eyes and in your jaw when you’re stressed. And, release. Notice what’s happening with your breath. Is it short and shallow? Are you holding your breath subconsciously? Without making a conscious effort to change these responses, notice how simply bringing your awareness to them results in relief.
If you’re amidst an acutely powerful stress reaction, talk to someone. Take a step out side and connect with the earth — literally. Sit on the ground, hold a rock, ground yourself. Once you’re able to bring attention to the physical, see if you can observe your thought process. Note: you are not your thoughts. Listen to your own mental chatter as often as you are aware of it, and see how you can’t be thinking it and reacting to it at the same time.
Meditation or even just sitting in silence and connecting with your breath for five minutes a day helps show incessant thoughts the way out of your head. If stress has you feeling down and diminished, try a restorative practice. If you’re feeling particularly antsy and agitated, a power yoga class might help you get rid of the excess energy. On the other hand, if you always gravitate to a restorative class, try mixing it up with a more vigorous flow and vice versa. We all hold onto energy in different ways.
However you choose to find balance and bring silence into being, watch your pot carefully.
“Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don’t realize it because almost everybody is suffering from it, so it is considered normal. This incessant mental noise prevents us from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from Being.”
ECKHART TOLLE, The Power of Now
-Your Charmed Yogi