There’s nothing new under the sun, even this sentence. Which is precisely why I’m alright with choosing it. I’m sitting down to write this post after having come to this virtual page without a plan for what I’ll write about. Yesterday, however, I drew the kettle that’s the featured image of this post, which led to the title, which now leads to what I’ll end up writing about: the unoriginal ideas bouncing around my monkey mind.
There is so much value to unoriginal ideas when they’re expressed in our own thoughts, our own words, our own feelings that arise. When we think them, we own them. When the thoughts arise, they resonate in ways that they might not have the first time we read them, or the hundredth.
It gets to a point where you might not even remember the original source of these ideas, or sources, like they’re all some ingredients that came together to become some kind of delicious mental stew.
Is that a weird idea? Yes. Yes, it is. Likely that’s not original either.
And I haven’t even gotten to the point of explaining precisely what ideas are currently bouncing around. It’s this: I keep going back to my earlier thoughts about how every emotion we feel is already there inside of us, available to be tapped into. The other day I mentioned anxiety, which I feel a lot of, and joy, which I rarely feel. One is not useful, while the other is.
This is what I’m precisely thinking about today in terms of these emotions. Many are useful, many are not. Happiness, sadness, joy, grief, excitement, fear, and others are useful. We need them to serve their purpose, depending on the situation. In happy circumstances, it’s great to tap into feelings of happiness and joy. In a situation that’s dangerous, fear may save our lives. When we lose someone we care about, grief honors the feelings we have for the one who passed. I would argue that anxiety is a useless emotion. There’s nothing inherently wrong with me feeling it, noticing it, and accepting it. But anxiety is essentially fear + hopelessness, and that’s not helping anything. So let it go. Depression, another longtime passenger of mine, is also useless. Depression, to me, is sadness + hopelessness. It’s an unhelpful passenger, or perhaps a backseat driver, and therefore useless to me. So let it go.
And we think, including me most of the time, that it’s not really that easy. Perhaps it is, though, because all those other emotions are also there within us, available to be tapped.
What I think, as a guy who is not a psychologist or a psychiatrist or a monk in a cave, is that there are ways to make it a little easier to let go and also to tap into the other emotions when we need them.
Obviously, meditation (Note: unoriginal idea, but what a great idea) is essential, regardless of your method. I prefer sitting meditation, though I’ll do walking meditation and cleaning meditation. This is a good place to practice nonattachment to both the thoughts we label as negative and positive. (Yes, I recognize that by labeling them as useful and useless, I may be committing some kind of thinking error, but that’s okay.)
Then, when not meditating, and a feeling arises, this is what I’ve been doing this week:
- Identify the emotion.
- Decide if it’s useful or useless.
- If it’s useful, just feel it. And don’t hold on to it.
- If it’s useless, imagine it as a passenger that is in’t actually you. It’s just something you’re carrying with you right now. Treat it with care. Buckle it up. Drive through your life with some compassion. Perhaps it’ll disappear. Either way, let it go.
- Imagine there is a reservoir of some kind, full of the emotion you want to feel (that is appropriate to feel at the moment), which is inside you. It’s available. Imagine you can tap into that reservoir. Imagine feeling it. Let that imagination flood you. It might feel fake at first, and hopefully it won’t feel fake after a little bit. Then let it go.
That’s about it. That’s what I’m doing this week. This week it works. Will it next week? I don’t know, but I’ll have to let that go as well.
None of this is original. This is just how my mind came to express the ideas that so many others have already realized. But I don’t need ideas to be originally mine in order to benefit from them, I just need to feel them, to add my flavor to the words so that they feel like something that fits me better.
Let your ideas percolate awhile. Thoughts are brewing. Hopefully there will be more “good” ones than not.