I don't know how frequently your thoughts pitter-patter beneath your cranium, but mine sometime rat-a-tat-tat for hours. On bad days, I'm at their mercy, brought to my knees by their morose battering.
"Pay no attention to them," Donna, my meditation teacher, says. "They're just sparks of electrical energy." But I find electric sparks difficult to ignore. They so often mimic my mother's voice, silent now two decades but still alive in my head. "You're too generous." "You should try harder." "Are you going to wear THAT?"
So when I spotted Sandra Ingerman's book, How to Heal Toxic Thoughts: Simple Tools for Personal Transformation (Sterling, 2007), I grabbed it. "This one's for me," I thought.
But it wasn't.
"Start by just breathing deeply into your abdomen," Ingerman writes. But I've been belly breathing for years. For a while in the Sixties, I even taught slow, deep inhalations in Yoga classes. I still breathe deeply. It takes the edge off my anxiety, I'll say that for it, but my thoughts go swaggering on.
Ingerman pitches meditation, too. Again, I agreed, nothing beats meditation for dropping clear down deep into the blank space that precedes thought, but some days the electrical energy goose-steps so briskly I can't find my way there.
So, disappointed, still needing a way to deflate the constant rapping of my mind, I set the book aside.
Meanwhile, out of unrelated curiosity, I paged through Shira Boss's Green with Envy: A Whole New Way to Look at Financial (Un)Happiness (Warner, 2006). Her examples were funny. The U.S. congressman who wants everyone to think he's arrived, but sleeps on a cot in his office. The 50-year-old baby boomer with kids in college, no retirement fund, and the clock ticking. And Boss's own jealousy at the "couple next door" who paid cash for their condo and go on shopping sprees. How can they afford it?
Green with Envy had a nice gossipy quality; I raced right through it. However, Boss's conclusion surprised me. All of a sudden, hoping to avoid her preoccupation with money, she's training to run a marathon. In doing so, she learned to train her mind. The phrase Boss used to train her mind, "But it doesn't matter," sounded purely American, not like the Hindu mantras I know. But she used the phrase like a mantra: at the grocery store when the line inches along, in her hallway when she hears her neighbors talk about jetting to Tahoe for the weekend.
How can that work? I wondered. It's too simple.