One of the easiest lessons of wisdom to learn is you are what you repeatedly think or do. One of the hardest wisdom disciplines to practice is thinking and doing good things.
Aristotle said, paraphrased by Will Durant; “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” So what we keep thinking and keep doing reveals who we truly are, on the inside. We can say we are kind, loving, grace-giving, but if our thoughts and deeds betray us we must come to the reality of who we are if we desire to change or be at peace through acceptance.
For those like myself who live with depression, one of the cycles we can get into are negative thoughts about ourselves. We relive painful moments, negative events, over and over again. We get stuck with thoughts of how we could be better, how terrible we are, and how little we can offer the world and those closest to us.
Being caught in a cycle of negative thoughts, reliving mistakes and mishaps is called ruminating. For those battling depression the thoughts can literally go on for days, weeks, months. When we are doing well, on a plateau, we can catch ourselves and refuse to hop on these train of thoughts. When we are struggling our thoughts can take us down tracks from which we may never recover.
I like the Zen saying; “You can’t stop negative thoughts from coming but you don’t have to sit and serve them tea.”
I was speaking with a friend the other day about how our thoughts can be our worse enemy. We get into a repetitive, negative train of thought and the tracks take us to bad places. We get down on ourselves, see no way out of difficult present circumstances, lose hope and despair over events and seasons we find ourselves traveling through. Our thought trains can run away with us, drag us to places our minds and spirits have no desire to go.
Taking a breath, slowing down our thinking, letting go of ideas, fears, anxieties is key. A wise proverb says; “Keep the front and back door of your mind open. Allow thoughts to come and go, just don’t serve them tea.” Mindfulness and wisdom teach us that often we cannot control thoughts popping into our heads but grasping and holding onto them is up to us.