The only difference between me and the woman wandering the streets mumbling to herself is that I’m not talking out loud.
The conversations in my head are an ongoing game of ping pong:
What should I do with my life?
I don’t know, but what I do know is that you should have it figured out by now.
You’re right… I’m so behind! Why can’t I get my shit together?
You aren’t good enough.
I’m not enough. I’ll never be enough.
I become so absorbed in the dialogue that I lose awareness of what’s real and what’s not real.
Labeling Your Thoughts
In her book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, Pema Chödrön suggests labeling your thoughts as “thinking.” For example, as I sit here writing this, my mind is running off in several directions, like I can’t wait to eat dinner (when don’t I think about food?) and Will I be called in for an interview? Instead of getting caught up in these conversations, I gently tell myself “thinking,” and continue writing.
Unlike my usual responses–Why can’t I ever stay focused?! I shouldn’t be feeling or thinking this!–simply labeling the thoughts as “thinking” is a compassionate and nonjudgmental way of awakening to reality, to this moment.
What’s reality, anyway? All I know for sure is that life is unpredictable and uncertain. In this way, meditation mimics the reality of life. During meditation, both formal and informal (think mindfulness), we focus on our breath. The in-breath and out-breath that you just took have come and gone. You can’t get them back. Anger, heartache, joy, confidence, security, jealousy, sadness–they’re all impermanent.
If you’re also battling it out in a game of ping pong, try labeling your thoughts as “thinking” and bring your awareness back to life… real life.