Day 11

Keep your attention on what you think about in the shower.


Have you ever had an argument with a memory?  Have you ever found yourself refining a retort to a person you were talking to…five, ten years ago?  Have you ever been caught up in a morbid checklist of everything embarrassing, frustrating, or regrettable in your past?

Contrarily, have you ever been grinding away at an inscrutable mental conundrum, only to have it dawn on you in the shower, causing you to leap out, soaking wet, to the nearest pen & paper?

I’m a big believer in recognizing, cultivating, and (if necessary) halting inner ‘self-talk’.  This is the running verbal commentary that often accompanies sensory experience in the world.  A situation presents itself, and a ‘voice’ from within you speaks out, labeling, analyzing, judging, and predicting.

This is useful.  It is also dangerous.  At its best, self talk is a fantastic tool for calculative thinking, self-affirmation, and a joyful navigation through life.  Sadly, a lot of people’s self talk is restricted to unintentional, impractical, and uncontrolled negative thinking.  It is an unfortunate reality that most of the time, the moment we let go of the ‘reigns’ of self-talk, or our attention turns to other tasks, the mind will begin to predict threats, analyze mistakes, and generally remain on the level of the harmful, the shameful, and the rotten.

So, what does showering have to do with this?  Well, from my own experience, the time when I am most at mercy to negative self-talk is when I am in the shower.  I think it’s because it is such a banal activity, performed alone in relative tranquility, and is often the first task of the day.  If I’m not careful, I can spend twenty full minutes arguing, debating, dreading and regretting, trapped in a purposeless carnival of mental constructs.  On the other hand, some of my most penetrating and poignant thoughts have sprung from that very same environment, to the extent that I have begun stowing sticky notes and pens in my medicine cabinet.

What is to be done?  Can we avoid rumination and encourage inspiration?  Yes.  It’s as simple as being aware of when, and how, your self-talk is operating.  Frequently, it’s your unconscious participation in negative thought patterns that lends them power.  Like a chemical reaction that only happens in the dark, awareness of your mind can cease many vaguely-rooted negative feelings.

Just watch.  Without pushing anything away, or grasping.  In my own experience, when I find myself caught in the middle of negative Shower Purgatory, I am able to pull myself back into the present moment by becoming acutely aware of how my mind is speaking to me.  As a result, a feeling of Presence and increased inner quiet has led to new thoughts, new ideas and concepts that would not have arisen if I were still stuck in old loops of past experiences. 

In short, shower time should not be done in sleep, even if you’re still sleepy.  Your mind will thank you.


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