“Life is one damn thing after another,”
attributed to Winston Churchill during WWII.
Although 2020 will probably be something for the history books, most of us feel at times like life just keeps dishing up one challenging event after another. It stirs up raw feelings, some of which are really uncomfortable, requiring us to work through the strong sensations they generate in the body. Challenging events also stir up a myriad of thoughts and beliefs – many of which keep us in unhealthy loops. Some of these thoughts are so deeply entrenched that we can scarcely catch them in action. Others are overt, harsh and painful; we are acutely aware of these, yet that doesn’t make it any easier to become less affected by them. Both kinds of thoughts affect us: the hard-to-see because we are so conditioned by past experiences, as well as the ones that seem to scream in our ear.
How do we continue to Participate in life when we feel stretched beyond belief? When I open up the “participate” skill on the DBT diary card app, it says the following:
“’Participating’ is the ultimate goal of Mindfulness skills in DBT. We want you to live your life as it comes. ….When you participate, you are focused solely on the ‘thing ‘ that you have decided you would focus on.”
That can seem like a tall order when your thoughts are hammering at you. However, practicing fully participating in your life as it shows up has been a tenant of the sages throughout history. Participating is a life challenge, not just a DBT challenge. Yet the relief and peace that arrives when Mindfullness skills start to become second nature can’t be underestimated. It may seem at times like you will never emerge out of the deluge of thoughts/beliefs arising from old conditioning, but don’t give up, because every time you apply a skill mindfully, you have just built up the muscle of greater awareness and weakened the influence of your past. This process helps you build a life where you can more fully participate in everything that shows up—good and bad.
Here’s an analogy that might help you disengage from thoughts that just seem to keep going on without end. When lost in thoughts, it’s like you’re on their train and are being pulled down their tracks, thereby making it harder to see and catch their influence of negativity and limitation. However once you catch those thoughts mindfully, you essentially have stepped “off the train” and emerge onto a new “platform” of awareness. Now, if you can practice watching your thoughts pass like train cars on tracks by imagining yourself on the platform, you can begin to free yourself up even more, because essentially you are not those thoughts—they “travel through” you. Once you’ve been able to step into an Observing, Describing and Non-Judgment(al) state of mind, watching and labeling the thoughts of the moment, you can now more fully participate in your own life—rather than your conditioning. The more you can live in your life, the more it will become your Life Worth Living.