Do you ever find yourself feeling good when there is no obvious reason? The reason I ask is because it’s a big clue to feeling good more often. Here’s how it happened to me recently.
One evening after dinner, just as I was pleased to be indoors out of the rain, the phone rang. It was my son saying that his car would not start. He said he was at the swimming pool, so I set off on the 5 mile drive to help him.
The rain seemed to be easing and I began to anticipate a dry interval to get his car working again. But when I got to the pool, I couldn’t find him. I drove slowly around the car park a second time and he definitely wasn’t there. When I called him on the phone, I found out that he was at the pool in a different town!
I will admit to more than a moment of frustration – I was cross with myself for not checking. But I could see no other option than drive the 10 miles to the other town. Worse still, the sky looked ready for another downpour.
Fortunately it was at this point that I remembered the key principle – all my experience is created by my thinking. Remembering this turned the ten mile trip into a revelation.
To be honest, at first I was still feeling cross and frustrated because of what had happened. In other words, I was thinking about how past events should have been different – how I made a wrong assumption; how I should have checked the location; how I’d made a wasted journey, and so on. It was this thinking that was creating feelings of anger and frustration.
When I realized what was going on, somehow those thoughts loosened their grip on me. There seemed little point investing in such thinking if all it did was make me feel bad.
So for a few moments my thoughts about the past faded and I was able to notice the delightful shades of green in the trees and hedges, and the impressive layers of scudding clouds. I began to feel calmer.
But soon my thinking moved into the future – how was I going to get my son’s car started? Perhaps between us we could push-start it. Or maybe we could use battery leads and jump-start it. Or perhaps we would have to take the battery home and recharge it overnight.
While my mind ran through the options, I became switched off from my surroundings. Because I was totally preoccupied by the future, I was missing the present. At the same time I could feel anxiety building. Then, for the second time, I realized what was going on. It seemed so obvious – my thoughts about the future were creating the experience of anxiety.
The more this dawned on me, my thoughts about the future seemed to shrink. As my mind became less busy, I could feel the calmness return. And I was able to connect once more to the beauty of my surroundings.
During the rest of the journey, my feelings oscillated. When I became aware of building frustration I knew my thoughts had returned to the past. When instead I could feel anxiety welling up, I knew my thoughts had jumped into the future. But the sweet spot was in the present, when my mind wasn’t dwelling on anything in particular. It really surprised me just how good I felt in the middle of all the ‘hassle’ of the evening.
The upshot was that when I eventually arrived at the right place, my mind was calm enough to see the best option straightaway and we successfully started the car – so the story does have a happy ending.
More importantly, the story shows how we don’t have to work at feeling good or finding peace of mind – it’s our default setting! And we can only be diverted away from this when we become absorbed by the thoughts that bring unwanted feelings.
So look out for the next time you feel good for no reason!