Imagining the Worst

While getting my dog settled in the back seat of the car yesterday morning, in anticipation of driving to a favorite trail for a great hike, I looked out at the street and noticed orange safety cones carefully placed down the center of the road. As it was a quiet Sunday morning, I was a bit mystified as to why they were there. I soon found out those cones were only the beginning.

The on ramp to the freeway was blocked off and side streets were barricaded closed. “What’s going on?” I asked myself. Of course I had no answer, but I kept fretting about it. And then my mind jumped to wondering how I would get back to my house later that morning, after the hike. Would the road be completely blocked off then? Very quickly I had myself worked up, with detailed visions of the challenges that would await me coming back home.

Do you ever do this? Do you find your very active imagination jumping to conclusions and actively creating worst case scenarios? That’s your inner critic, monkey mind, or little voice as I’ve heard this part of the mind referred to. It finds a way to jump in and pull you down when you’re very happy, high on life, or excited about a new opportunity. Worrying about what might happen is a trick our mind plays to calm our system and bring us back down to our old emotional set point or level.

This is great when your active mind is reminding you of good things to bring you back up to a ‘normal’ state of hopefulness, but not so good when it’s trying to bring you back down from a state of excitement and eager anticipation. When you want to make changes, you need to stay alert and witness how your mind jumps to different topics and mental pictures in order to scare, anger, or depress you.

In my case, after a stressful week, I was happy to be feeling the joy and healing of an amazing Reiki session Saturday afternoon and experiencing excitement about getting back to a trail I hadn’t been on in months because of the drought and heat. With lots of rain the past month and cooler temperatures, I anticipated a beautiful hike. I had moved to a higher, more positive emotional state.

Thankfully, I was alert enough to notice the foolishness of the thoughts I started thinking about the traffic redirection and the way it was affecting my mood and bringing me back down from my ‘high.’  I began to redirect my thoughts toward the hike. Again. And again. Don’t underestimate the power of your mind. I had to be vigilant in catching myself and redirecting my thoughts to the joyful experience of walking the trail – - to being in the present moment.

The hike was amazing. After not hearing the sound of flowing water on that trail for about a year, it was heaven to walk along and through the creek and see my dog happily playing in the water. The drive home? Easy. No blocked roads. No blocked entrance. Once again I had another opportunity to laugh at myself!

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