My family and I spent the past week on Lake Coeur d’Alene and it must be said that this place is heaven on earth.
We traveled there by airplane where I found the opportunity to conduct a POWERFUL experiment. I’m not one who likes test tubes and beakers and cutting up frogs, but I LOVE to experiment with human behavior. Even my own. Especially my own. I try to do this regularly but some circumstances lend themselves to it easier than others and the airplane ride created the perfect opportunity.
I had my seatbelt securely fastened and seat back and tray table in their upright position as the plane began to gain altitude. Not far off the ground we began to experience turbulence. The kind of turbulence that makes the plane drop a few feet quickly and your stomach drop even faster. Some passengers on the plane made noises like “WHOA!” and I felt my fists clench up and my heart race. My 1-year old son cried and wiggled around on my lap while my 6-year-old daughter starred out the window in the seat next to me. I immediately thought about my kids and what I would do if the plane went down. I thought about how afraid I would be and how afraid they would be and knew I would be helpless to protect them. As my thoughts ran wild I felt my chest grow heavy and my face tense up and just then I looked over at my daughter who had a big smile on her face. She said, “Mom! This is awesome! It’s like riding the dragon roller coaster!”
Thats when I realized this was the perfect opportunity for an experiment! My daughter was on the exact same flight I was on but she felt entirely different than I did. She felt joy while I felt fear. I wanted to feel joy! I like how joy feels. I hate how fear feels! So I reminded myself that our different feelings had nothing to do with the plane, the turbulence or even with what was possibly about to happen. They ONLY had to do with our THOUGHTS about it all. And I get to choose my thoughts. Isn’t that great news?
I quickly began sifting through things that I could believe in my mind. I knew that turbulence was very common and didn’t mean an impending crash even if it felt that way. I reminded myself that the odds of being in a plane crash were very minimal. That thousands of airplanes take off and land safely every single day. And then I found the thoughts that for me made the ultimate difference. This logic might not help everyone but it really helped me.
I remembered that whether or not the plane was going to crash really didn’t matter. It was entirely out of my control. If it WAS going down, I could go down feeling fear or feeling joy. I like joy much better. In fact one day when I DO die I hope it is just after spending a week on Lake Coeur d’Alene and while laughing out loud with someone I love more than anything. That would be pretty ideal. SO, I decide to imagine I WAS on the dragon roller coaster with my daughter and to let the dropping stomach feel exciting rather than terrifying. I thought about a close friend of mine who LOVES turbulence and always hopes for it on every flight because she thinks it is like a fun ride and I tried on her thoughts. And it worked. Well, it worked for moments anyway. The drop would be exciting and fun and then my old fearful thoughts came rushing back in and here came fear again. I’d say “hello fear. I see you.” Acknowledging them seems to minimize negative feelings for some reason. Then I’d go back to thoughts like, “It doesn’t matter. It’s out of your hands so just enjoy this moment with your daughter. She’s having fun so you can too!” And the joy would return. We laughed out loud every time there was a sudden jolt.
My mind wanted to go back to thoughts that create fear because it thinks it’s protecting me by doing so. We occasionally need that instinct for survival. But when I remembered it wasn’t necessary since I was not in control of the plane, I could dismiss it and feel differently. Feel better. It was SO interesting! The turbulence didn’t last more than about 10 minutes and so my experiment ended but it was a FASCINATING reminder to me of the power of my thoughts and how they are responsible for ANY feeling I’m having.
This experiment also reminded me that sometimes the thoughts we have that are creating negative emotions are warning signs that we might be in danger. It might be physical danger or it might be emotional danger or spiritual danger. I’m not suggesting you start dismissing them and just pretend to be on a roller coaster all the time. Pay attention and determine whether or not you need to take some sort of action to get out of danger. However, if you can not control the circumstance, which we often can’t, then you’ll want to be functioning at your best in order to take the best possible action. If the pilot suddenly comes on the speaker and says “brace for impact” I am more likely to remember to secure my own oxygen mask before helping my children and all the other safety instructions if I’m thinking clearly. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the thought is true. All that matters is how it makes you feel because positive, empowering feelings create much better results than negative painful ones. Think about how people behave who are experiencing fear. They hide, tense up and often have to be reminded just to breathe. Not very helpful if you need to get out of trouble.
Have you tried experimenting with your mind lately? Give it a try. Look for opportunities and play with your thoughts. It really is wonderfully amazing how you can change your feelings if you pay attention. Are your kids starting school soon? How do you feel about it? Why do you feel that way about it? (HINT: It’s your thoughts!) Can you make yourself feel a different way about it? Do you want to feel differently about it? I’m not suggesting there is a right or wrong way to feel about ANYTHING but rather I think it’s fun to experiment because once you see the power you have then you can call upon it when needed.
Try this out and then send me a quick email and tell me how it went.
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Love your guts.