Spring is the season of clarity and new beginnings. After the winter season of contemplating and going within, it’s time to break out of our seed pods and blossom into our full potential. Or maybe I should say boof into our full potential 🙂 It’s a new paddling season full of natural flow and possibility. To walk or paddle through the open door of new opportunity it is key that we leave our old baggage in the entrance. Specifically for me, this spring it’s all about leaving my negative thoughts behind and paddling into the next rapid feeling light, empowered and open to success.
Here’s my latest realization on how to do this: Our thoughts create our suffering/negativity. Situations don’t create suffering, but the thoughts that we have about the situation and/or people create our suffering. Change our thoughts and we reduce our suffering/negativity. I had this realization a few months ago while sitting in meditation. As many of you know, and as I am very open about sharing, the last several years I’ve been on the journey of ‘unexplained infertility.’ It’s taken me through the waters of holistic treatments, over the mountains of failed In Vitro and finally through the fires of my own grief. It’s been one hell of a ride – more challenging than any Class V rapid I have ever run! A few months ago I found out that a friend who was on a similar journey was pregnant. I became emotional and decided to go sit with my emotions on my meditation cushion. I was sitting, breathing, watching the breath, noticing the tears streaming down my face, observing my thoughts. I asked myself: “What is it exactly that I’m upset about?” I wasn’t upset about my friend getting pregnant, I was happy for her because that is what I want for any woman who wishes to conceive her own children. The truth was that I was upset because I thought that the fact that she was able to get pregnant and I wasn’t meant that I was a failure, not good enough, less than.
As soon as I realized that it was my thought about being a failure that was making me upset my sadness dissipated. I stopped crying and I felt at peace. It was amazing. It worked because I knew that my friend getting pregnant did not make me a failure – her pregnancy had nothing to do with me. I was reacting to a thought I was having about the situation and the thought was bringing up a lot of emotion. When I acknowledged the thought it took the power away the power the thought was having over me.
The same question and answer can apply to our experience on the river. When we swim, for instance, the river isn’t trying to get us. We aren’t upset at the river, we are usually upset with ourselves, but why? It is usually because we think that swimming equals failure, not being good enough, not being the paddler we thought we were. The thoughts are what create suffering. And if those thoughts go unchecked they have the power to reduce our confidence. If we swim we may think that we inconvenienced our fellow boaters who had to rescue us and that causes our suffering. The truth is that every kayaker that you see out on the water has been rescued at least once if not many, many times. Swimming is part of kayaking, we’re all in between swims, and yes, it can be scary, but even then it is our thoughts around the swim that make it scary. This is apparent when you observe two paddlers of the same ability paddling a river where one decides to walk a rapid and the other runs it. Their decision to run the rapid or not has nothing to do with their skills (we’re assuming they have the necessary skills), it has everything to do with their thoughts about the rapid, their thoughts about their ability and how they feel that day.
Knowing that our thoughts about a situation create our suffering doesn’t mean that from this moment forward we’ll never suffer or never decide to walk a rapid again. What it does is empower us to take a different perspective on our emotions and how we make decisions. I am fine with walking rapids that I think are scary, but I acknowledge that it is my thought about them that makes them look scary to me. At the same time, this awareness may lead me to let go of a ‘bad’ experience or may allow me to run a rapid that I feel intimidated by. Having the awareness to ask the question, ‘what exactly is making me upset or scared’ gives me the power over my thoughts instead of the other way around. And empowering ourselves sets us up for success paddling into this springtime season of new beginnings.