Don’t Always Believe What You Think

We all do it. We make up stories. We conjure what others think of us, we invent what will happen if we speak up or take action, and we ruminate on what someone meant when they said, “that,” to us. The problem with all this is…almost always, 99.9% of the time, more often than not, the story we make up leaves us feeling like doggy poop! We tell ourselves the worst possible scenarios, with the most devastating endings. We heckle ourselves with, “They said that because they don’t like me, I am so weird, no one really cares anyway.” We conclude, “Something awful is about to happen (I will lose my job, be left, be rejected).” At the end of all this we feel very, very bad about ourselves.


Sound familiar?


Recently I made up the story that everything I said in my meditation class was really stupid. What every one else said was eloquent and enlightening. I didn’t stop there. I told myself that no one really cared what I had to say anyway. As I looked around the room I could read on my classmates faces that they agreed with me. “See,” I said to myself, “I am right, so just keep quiet. Don’t say another thing.”


I am what you may call a sophisticated self criticizer. I corroborate my story by interpreting the other persons non verbal cues-body language. “See they blinked, that means they are secretly rolling their eyes. They crossed their arms, everyone knows what that means. They cleared their throat…they sat down, they stood up, they scratched their nose.” I could go on and on. The beauty of this is it is one more way I tell myself my story is right. How I love to be right!


The truth, however, was I had no idea what my classmates were thinking about me. I just knew what I told myself they were thinking. Worse yet, I believed myself. I noticed what I told myself they were thinking sounded an awful lot like what I was saying about myself. “What a stupid thing to say, no one cares…” Hmmm. I see a pattern here.


I say nasty things to myself then tell myself some one else is saying it to me. Very clever, my dear Patricia. What a system. Too bad I lose…every single time.


My solution? If I am going to make up a story, make it a kind one. One that leaves me feeling loved and respected. Instead of assuming what I say is stupid, what if I assumed someone in the class liked what I said and that it had value to them?


In graduate school, my mentor, Ed Jacobs told me, “50% of the people are alway going to like you and 50% of the people are always not going to like you. Why not stand with the 50% that like you?” If I took his advise my stories, albeit still made up, would leave me wanting to hang out with myself.


I will no longer believe everything I think. Unless it is kind.


More Noticing…There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon


This is a book I used to read to my kids. There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent. It is the story of young Bill Bixbee who finds a baby dragon on his bed one morning. He carries the dragon downstairs to breakfast to show his mother. Despite the

dragon standing on the table eating his pancakes, Bill’s mother insists, “There’s no such thing as a dragon.” Bill accepts her view on the situation and the baby dragon grows a bit bigger. Throughout the day, each time Bill tries to show the damage done by the dragon, his mom denies it’s existence and the dragon grows even bigger. Until, by the end of the day, the dragon is so large it carries the house down the street after a bread truck. When Bill’s mom notices her house has been carried off, she finally acknowledges the dragons presence. With her noticing the dragon miraculously returns to kitten size. The story ends with mom petting the dragon while it rests on her lap. “I don’t mind dragons this size,” she says to her son, “I wonder why it had to get so big?” Bill replies,”I think it just wanted to be noticed.”


I LOVE this story. In it’s simplicity is it’s wisdom. Often something has to get really big for us to notice it.


I can choose not to notice my life’s dragons. Continue Reading

I Love My Life

Before I lived in Pittsburgh I said to myself, “When I live in Pittsburgh, I am going to go to meditation classes, ti chi, and yoga classes, I’m going to sit in coffee shops with friends, go to art openings, eat fun food in interesting neighborhoods, and take some art classes.”


I have lived in Pittsburgh for over 4 years now. All the activities I couldn’t wait to take advantage of are right at my finger tips. I have done a few, sporadically, but not to the extent I imagined. Why? I have no excuses. I take that back…I have plenty of excuses, “I’m too tired, I don’t have time, parking is too hard, I have to cross a bridge (did I just say that? I must really be a Pittsburgher), I don’t want to commit to every week.”


Why do I do this? Why do I talk myself out of the things I dream of? Do you do this too?


As I sit with that question I come up with several versions of viable answers. They all lead to… Continue Reading

Notice, Notice, Notice

Since I did so well with the 21 day meditation challenge, I signed up for an 8 week mindfulness meditation class at the Center for Integrative Medicine at UPMC based on the work of Jon Kabot-Zinn. It is all about noticing. Not changing, just noticing.


I had wanted to take this class for a long time. Despite that I still felt uncertain if I should follow through after attending the introductory class. I told myself the class was going to be too big. I was going to be too tired. I reminded myself that I probably wouldn’t practice anyway, that it would be another thing I tried and then forgot.


I couldn’t make my mind up and I didn’t know how to decide. As I looked over the materials given in the intro class, it said a symptom of stress was not being able to make up your mind…hmmmm.


I decided to take the class. Continue Reading