I’ve been helping someone named Sam for 4 months now. He came to me seeking help for how to manage his high stress life and constant rumination about his past. He would talk to me repeatedly about how his family stresses him out, and how life is unfair that he and his wife cannot conceive a baby while all his friends have many children. Tormented and unhappy, he was hoping that meditation would bring him happiness.
He’s done excellent ‘work’. After a progression of first learning to meditate and then learning mindfulness, he is now quite self-aware of his thoughts and how he spends most of his day ruminating, feeling victimized and angry.
Here are the steps he took over 4 months:
- He first learned to observe his thoughts and emotions – recognizing negative thoughts, recognizing rumination. Being well aware when he was stressing repeatedly about something his brother-in-law said to him.
- He next learned to intentionally bring himself into the present moment – to pay attention to what is happening in the moment.
- Now he’s often able to switch this negative thinking to something else – whether it’s a thought of gratitude, or just thinking about something else that doesn’t bother him.
Rumination is the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions. Every time you think about the awful situation, you relive it and your body reacts. It feels terrible.
Now, after 4 months, Sam is finding some peace within himself, even though his situation has not changed at all. He’s even trying to teach his wife how to do the same.
He came to me this week and asked “Is this real? Am I really changing or am I just faking it?” I thought: What a great question!
I explained that retraining yourself to change your experience of life is a journey, and it may feel mechanical and not genuine in the beginning, but with practice, you are retraining your brain to think differently. Your perspective of life changes, and more and more, this practice does become less mechanical and more just the nature of how you think – a new state of being. Being human, we should not expect to be 100% blissful, but we can move the pendulum from anxiety and rumination to more peace and gratitude.
After hearing that, he reflected on this, and realized that it is becoming easier as time passes. Before my eyes, over the recent weeks, I’ve seen him start to transform into a happier person who is excited about a new way of being and wants to tell others about it. It’s been a joy to see his transformation.
Well done, Sam!