on taking the monster’s teeth and claws

Reading over my journal from the last couple of years has been wonderful.  I’ve always thrown away my journals at the end of the year.  I read over it, get a new one and throw it away.   I don’t know why.  Year after year I did this.  Then I had an excruciating year and couldn’t bear to read over that year.  I couldn’t throw it away if I hadn’t read over it, so it still rests in a drawer, awaiting the day I am ready to open it.  It broke the habit, so I now have the last couple of years of journals to read over.  I’m enjoying it so very much.

Looking over an entry I wrote with thoughts about panic and foreboding, I realized that I had changed my way of responding to dark thoughts since I wrote it.  I didn’t try to change, I didn’t implement a self-improvement program.  The change came naturally, organically, and so quietly I didn’t even notice it.

It used to be that when I would have a tough moment, one of those times when darkness comes like a sudden storm to overwhelm with despair, I would sink into sadness and the litany of hopelessness would begin:  There is no point to life, too much pain and suffering, too full of disappointment and dissatisfaction, no reason, no hope, no purpose, no redeeming factor.

What I would do with these thoughts is key.  I would give them significance.  It was if they held more truth, as if they had a certain heft, a bulkier weight to them.  It was as if they bore more significance, were full of more truth than ordinary thoughts and feelings.

Somewhere in there, in learning to sit in meditation and notice my thoughts, in learning to listen to my inner dialogue throughout the day, a change came.  These thoughts, which should carry no more weight or significance than any other, became just thoughts again.  Thoughts come and go, like clouds in the sky.  Giving shadow thoughts (despair, hopelessness, foreboding) extra significance and weight is like giving the monster teeth and claws.  Take away the teeth and claws and all that is left is another thought, floating by, soon gone.

teeth and claws