There is always a choice
Right now there are two things alternating in my mind, neither of which I chose. One is negative and therefore unhelpful. The other is uplifting and pleasant.
The negative one is coronavirus. I don’t mean I have it. I mean my mind goes to it as a subject to think about, to ponder, to be concerned about, to worry about.
The positive one is that, contrary to the forecast, it is another gorgeous, sunny, autumn day.
What can I do about the pandemic? I can follow guidelines. I do, so that is done. I can teach people how to try to cope, even enjoy life despite lockdowns, self-isolating, shielding. I do this as much as I can. This article is an example.
What else could I do that is useful or constructive or positive about covid? Nothing. I am doing all I can to not get it, to not spread it in the scenario where I may unknowingly have it but was asymptomatic. And I am trying to help others, locally and as far afield as the internet reaches, to be happier despite the virus.
So what’s the point in the thought of the virus still being on my mind? There is none. It serves me no purpose and it doesn’t help me serve anyone else. Therefore it’s a waste of precious time to dwell on it. Not only a waste of time; it is also a harmful use of my time. The negativity of thinking about something as awful as this pandemic would have a draining effect on my mind and body, and it would colour my view of the world as I think and chat and work. This means I would feel worse today, and in all likelihood negatively affect the moods of the people around me, in real life, and virtually.
Now look at the alternative that, equally randomly, appeared in my mind when I first started writing this article. It’s still a beautiful day. Autumn leaves and being lit up by the sunlight, and the sun is also making the grass look brilliantly green. There are shadows of vines leaves projected onto the room wall as I look up from my laptop. All in all, it makes me smile, feel happy, and love life.
It doesn’t take a neuroscientist or psychologist to point out that one of these options nurtures you, while the other brings you down.
However in order to make the most of these precious moments we have to have certain mental faculties switched on.
The first is awareness, or vigilance. Without these qualities it is so easy for the worries about covid to blank out awareness of the beauty of the day outside. The automatic reaction of the mind is to go negative, not positive, so worry will win the day if we leave it to the mind itself. So we need to learn to be more vigilant.
Once we are aware of what is on our mind, we can see both the potential for negativity, and the potential for life-enhancement. Now we need the skill of being able to take our mind deliberately towards something of our choosing, while subtly but effectively letting go of what we don’t want in our mind.
If we are able to do that, there is a third stage, which is back to the first step. We need to keep our awareness going, not just to enjoy the beauty of the day, but in case the mind tries to alert us again to the dangers of covid. This is extremely common, and if we’re not vigilant, we’ll get a few seconds of enjoyment, and then the negativity will win us over and ruin however many seconds or minutes that follow.
So remember. We always have a choice between something negative and something positive. But to achieve the option we want we need to do this process: Vigilant-Let Go-Vigilant.