Part sixteen in a series.
"Mental Muscle" Spiritual Boot Camp is winding down with only two weeks left. This week focused on the theme of "feelings."
James Mellon's first directive was for Boot Campers to assess how we felt upon waking up in the morning, and then do another assessment at the end of the day.
The first thing that goes through my mind most mornings is music. The tone of the music tends to determine how I am generally feeling. Each day this week, I awoke with a "bright" song in my head. It confims I generally feel happy these days.
Even so, with all the emotional work and writing I've been doing while juggling an energy-depleting day job and keeping up with a revitalized social life, something I definitely felt all week was tired!
Certainly some of that "tired" feeling was physical, but the larger part of it was mental. The more I acknowledged how tired I felt, I seemed to get even more tired. Eventually, it got to a point where my level of "tired" started to affect my mood. Negative and fearful thoughts crept into my mind much more easily.
James' philosophy from the "Mental Muscle" book is that "Feeling is a choice. Instead of anger, we could choose peace. Instead of blame, we could choose forgiveness."
In my case, I wondered if I could choose "energized" instead of "tired." I wanted to believe that I could because frankly, I didn't like the mood shift I was having. I began to feel resentful towards a few things I feel I must do at the present time. Without clear alternatives, that perspective can lead me to knock myself over choices I've made.
Choosing my mood, or believing I have control over how I feel emotionally, is where I have a bit of trouble. I can get frustrated with the "lag time" between making the decision to stop feeling moody and my mood actually changing. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines written by Carrie Fisher, "Instant gratification takes too long."
In the past, if I was in a bad mood I would just accept it or ride it out until it "left." Sometimes, that could take days. As one former Boot Camper wrote, "I always thought I was supposed to feel bad."
I no longer believe I am supposed to just "sit with" a bad mood, especially in cases where I have no obvious or discernable reasons for one. My work through Boot Camp has rendered that impossible.
One of the most powerful lessons I've received from James Mellon and "Mental Muscle" Boot Camp: "This negative stuff is not the truth. Let's shift this energy."
I've found that the best way for me to shift energy is to write out everything I'm feeling. Somehow actually seeing it on the page keeps my brain from going into a "loop", where I have the same thought patterns over and over. I've been a writer for years, but have come to appreciate my ability even more over the last fourteen weeks.
I wrote, "People ask me what I want to do with my life, and my answer remains, 'I don't know.' Even when I am asked to project a fantasy of what I want I can't seem to do it. I don't see the fantasy."
An immediate shift came after I wrote that sentence. I continued, "It's time to stop saying, and writing, that I don't see it. It is time to state the fantasy. Let it out. Let it exist."
After that I wrote out, no holds barred, what my fantasy vision of a fulfilling life would be. Despite the fact that just about every spiritual book I have read advises people to do this, I never have. By finally doing it, I learned why I hadn't before.
No surprise; fear, once again. I have been afraid to give voice to a vision of my "perfect life" because I cannot bear the thought of it never becoming a reality. The thought is so painful that I actually feel it as if it has already happened. So, if I never say the fantasy, and never truly believe I can have it, then I will spare myself a great deal of pain by never fully acknowleding it.
Once I had this realization, I pushed the painful fear aside and wrote what I expect for myself with decisiveness, command and expectency. Nothing felt far-fetched or unrealistic. It was quite a statement of who I am.
When I finished, my entire body was pulsing with energy. I was no longer tired or moody and could actually get back to focusing on work I'd felt resentful of moments before. I proved that with determination and effort I can absolutely shift the way I feel even if it doesn't seem physically possible.
This was the week that I really understood why it's called "Mental Muscle." I clearly see that through more discipline and practice, my mind will become much stronger. As I gain strength, the "lag time" in shifting any negative energy will get shorter and shorter. Not only do I feel it, but I am beginning to know it.