I enjoy getting lost in thought and often seek to do so. But I used to follow any stimulating idea that crossed my mind — I’d go down gloomy labyrinths fraught with thoughts of doom. And that was a mistake of course, as it led me down too many dank alleyways awash with sewer that stuck even upon exit. You don’t eat something just because it’s on your plate do you? No, rotten food should be discarded — and it’s the same with rotten ideas.
Rotten thoughts are those that poison the mind — not only are they initially unpleasant but their effects linger long after the introduction. When they knock, it’s our job not to invite them in — no matter how persistent they may be. It’s a skill to block thought though — but it’s an ability we can practice and improve upon. For instance, we have to regularly poll our emotional state: How am I feeling? Good? Good. How am I feeling? Sad.. scared.. seething..? ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!
Sir! We have a situation. All indications are that we’re currently experiencing emotional distress.
All stations CODE RED! I repeat, all stations CODE RED! Shut this down immediately! DO IT! GO! GO! GO! This must be contained, or it could blow at any minute!
Sir! We’ve successfully ceased all physical and mental activity, we’ve gone into meditative mode and we’re quietly waiting out the shockwave.
Sir! I’m proud to report that there have only been minor leaks to the outside — nothing unmanageable. Residual aftershocks are being dealt with as they roll in and the initial cause for upsetness has been defused through a reset in perspective.
How am I feeling? Good? Good.
Eventually, the process of recognizing and rebuffing unconstructive thoughts becomes more automatic. And instead of periodic polling, we can use the heightened emotions themselves to trigger a recognition response, effortlessly setting the whole deactivation sequence in motion.
So it’s rare that I get completely lost within my thoughts anymore. I’ll certainly wander without knowing where I’m going, but my sense of direction is better, I can tell where home is, and I’m more street-savvy, knowing which avenues to avoid.