In mindfulness, we talk a lot about beginning again. Your attention wanders during a focused attention practice? Begin again. You're in the midst of behaving the way you habitually do and you notice what you're doing? Begin again. There's no rule that says you must finish what you started.
Again . . .
There's No Rule That Says You Must Finish What You Started
You're in the room with your Button Person. They push all of your buttons. Maybe at one point they were doing it on purpose or you had legitimate issues with each other. But now, they may or may not be trying, and your nervous system gets activated. It doesn't matter what they're doing or what their intentions are. Your brain's prediction in their presence—or maybe even at the mere mention of their name— is that you're upset or angry. It's kind of a losing proposition for them, and the same is true for you. This is how maladaptive relationship patterns form. After a while, it doesn't matter what the person does—to you, it's a threat or attack. They have become coupled with negative or destructive thoughts and sensations.
After you've spent some time in mindfulness practice, you begin to see this story as a narrative you can opt out of. Sometimes you're able to opt out as you feel that familiar sensation arising that usually ends with you lashing out or experiencing shame or hurt. "As enticing as you are, I'm not following you this time," you say to the thoughts and sensations. Progress.
Other times, you get hooked by the story of the past and its familiar sensations, and you do the habitual thing you've done many times before. You realize right after that you got sucked in again. In this case, pile on some self-compassion, and begin again. This, too, is progress.
Then there are the times you get hooked by the story and the sensations, and you catch yourself doing that. This is a choice point. Remember, there's no rule that says you must finish what you started.
This Is What Agency Looks Like
When you're at-choice with your attention, you see stories for what they are—thoughts that you can choose to engage with or opt out of. You can choose to amplify certain sensations and thoughts and send others to the background. You can pause to be with whatever is occurring and do nothing but experience it as it comes and goes. You can fill the moment with compassion for yourself and lovingkindness for the Button Person. Whatever you choose to do, it's the choice that matters. It's the ability to choose.
Beginning again is a choice that's always available to you, like Dorothy's ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz. Bring your attention to your feet and to those ruby slippers, and begin again. You're wearing ruby slippers; it might take you some time to see them, but they're there.
This Thursday is the FINAL drop-in for 2021. Come pause for 20 minutes and chat for 10 if you'd like. It's at 11am, ET (UTC-5).
May ease find you . . .