Labor Day has come and gone and even though the weather is still balmy and warm, summer is clearly over. It happens every year: everything in me resists this inevitability. In my mind, there’s nothing like summer: the warmth of the sun melting my body's tension and slowing down my often jazzed up energy; the beauty and lushness of the natural landscape bringing a quiet peace.
Each time I take seriously the thoughts that claim “it’s over,” my body tenses up and my feelings switching from calm and happy to disappointed and unhappy. That one thought - summer is over - brings a full deck of associations of loss with it and momentarily obscures the pleasure I felt just seconds before the thoughts of doom and gloom.
Even though most of us been conditioned to associate summer months with freedom and adventure and the fall season with routine and restriction, there’s a valuable understanding you can take advantage of to minimize or even eliminate the effects of this kind of limited thinking. And it works for any habitual thoughts that disrupt your focus and ability to get things done.
The single most important thing to know is how thoughts - like the ones I was having - can either enhance or ruin our capacity to be productive and engaged. Most of us know this theoretically but when there’s drama in the story, it’s easy to get hooked and forget that we have a choice as to whether we react to them or not.
Thoughts wedge themselves between us and our experience of the world. They’re accompanied by physical sensations and are quickly labelled by the mind: good/bad, right/wrong, I deserve this/don’t deserve this, why can’t it be different, and so on. Once these judgments start blaring in our heads about what should or shouldn't be happening, we interpret them as if they were the truth and start trying to do something about our external reality, even though nothing's wrong out there. It's in the internal reality where we can really see what needs or doesn’t need to be done.
We can take a step back and notice that thoughts come and go on their own steam and despite appearances, we don’t need to do anything to, with or about them. As long as we don’t spend our energy on reacting to negative or critical thoughts, they’ll lose their audience (us) and leave. And even if they do linger at the back of our brains, we don’t have to give them our attention. That means we can still get on with what’s right in front of us. When we know that thoughts by themselves are powerless unless we give them power, we can unhook from listening to “fake news” in our heads and shift our focus to what we want to create or experience or simply enjoy in that moment.
Once you try this you’ll see how much more energy, focus and enjoyment are available to you.