I walk the Hammock almost every day. The Hammock is a 100-acre forest in the heart of Dunedin, FL. I feel perfectly at home there. I see roseate spoonbills, owls, hawks, egrets, herons, turtles, lizards, and the occasional snake, among other critters. I absolutely love walking the trails.
Today, Pedro and I wandered into the Hammock and something fast and small bit my leg scaring the bejeezus out of me! Snake! I looked down only to find that I had stepped on a small stick. I shook my head and then my whole body, releasing the surge of adrenaline and cortisol that filled me. Fifteen minutes later, it happened again! Snake! Of course, it, too, was nothing more than a stick. I shook my head once again and laughed at how ridiculous I was being.
I walk these trails every day, never afraid, even if sticks do pop up and hit me from time to time. What was different today? I had snakes on the mind because Pam and I had been talking about them the day before. I thought the stick was a snake. Even though it barely felt like much of anything, I almost jumped out of my skin! That, my friend, is the power of thought. I was experiencing my thinking in the moment, nothing more.
Additionally, I had a business meeting with a colleague today. The conversation didn't go as I had imagined. I hung up and began to feel a tad sorry for myself. That's when I got up and went into the woods, only to be bitten by two snakes! Of course, I've already established that there were no snakes. No snake bites and no snakes in the conversation. I realized that I thought the conversation was a snake, just as I thought the stick was a snake. I started to make up what was going to happen in the future as a result of the conversation. I decided it wasn't going to go well after all. I decided the call was bad news, yet, there was no bad news. Just different news than I had expected.
Once I realized that I was buying into these thoughts that were welling up in my mind, I began to relax, allowing them to move through me. I reminded myself that the future is an incomplete equation. I can't possibly know how the situation will unfold. When I started to believe that I did know and then the conversation didn't go as I imagined, I freaked out a bit, fearful that things wouldn't turn out well. Truth is, I have no idea how it will turn out and I had no idea before the conversation either. All of it was made up! I believed the thoughts to be real and that's why I felt I had been bitten by a snake. There was no snake. Only thought in the moment.
Can you relate? How many times have you seen a snake, whether in the woods or in a person or situation only to find that it was a stick? How many times have you made up an imagined future only to find that the future turns out completely differently? Probably more than you can count. And how much stress have you experienced as a result?
When we get caught up in an imagined future and in our exponential thinking, insight eludes us and we can become stressed, angry, disappointed, or fearful. When we recognize thought for what it is, we relax a bit and can begin to bring ourselves back to the present moment, allowing the thoughts to move through and opening to the insights we need to handle right now. We have all we need to deal with this moment. Even if it is a real snake.
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