I have a beginner-skier friend whose skiing self-talk is so overwhelmingly positive and cheerful (“Look at you!” she tells herself as she turns. “You’re doing it!”), it’s made me reconsider my own internal chatter. Hers is both positive and mindful, appreciating every turn for what it is, right as it’s happening. Mine goes more like this: I’ll be skiing along when I realize I’m engaging in some lazy bad habit—leaning slightly back, for example. At the moment I realize this, my self-talk becomes: “Good God, woman! Press your shins into the front of your boots!”
I thought about this recently when I stumbled upon this Mindful interview with ABC News anchor Dan Harris and meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein, titled The Victory of Being Lost in Thought. It addresses this very phenomenon in terms of meditation: For most of us, when we realize our minds are wandering, our inclination is to be mad at ourselves for being asleep rather than rejoicing that we’ve woken up.
Harris (author of the terrific book 10% Happier) says to Goldstein: Most of us use that moment of waking up from distraction to beat the crap out of ourselves. In fact, you’re saying we should view it as a victory.
Goldstein’s response: Exactly. So we’re lost in some thought. And then at a certain moment we become aware of that. We wake up from being lost. And the usual tendency is for the mind to jump in with a judgment: “Ah, I was lost again for the ten thousandth time.” And then berate ourselves for that happening. But the re-frame, which is so powerful and so delightful, is in that moment of going from having been lost to being awake, to being aware—To actually highlight first the fact that we’re now aware again, we’re now awake again. And the beauty of this practice, and the transformation from seeing the wandering mind as a problem to, in some ways, seeing it as a gift, is precisely in that moment. For as many times as we get lost in a thought, that same exact number of times, we awaken from being lost.
What a revelation! What if we treated that moment of realization that we’re being sloppy and mindless—whether it’s while we’re meditating, skiing or simply having a conversation with a family member—as a moment to appreciate that we awakened from being lost?