reruns. feel it instead.

by michelle on October 5, 2011

Ever feel like your brain is on repeat?

Well, in some ways, it is!

Scientists know that we have about 60,000 thoughts every day.

And that 95% of them are repeats.

That’s a lot of reruns.

I’ve been noticing my own thought patterns lately:

I’m not good enough.
I don’t have enough time.
I’m so tired.
It always turns out this way.

When you overhear yourself say, “I feel like I’m always saying this,” it’s likely you’re stuck in a pattern.

And my wise friend Havi says, the only way to get out of a pattern is with another pattern.

what would pema do?

Pema Chodron writes:

Each time you stay present with fear and uncertainty, you’re letting go of a habitual way of finding security and comfort. All those brain studies about meditation—where they place people in MRI machines or put electrodes on their heads—show us that each time you dare to remain where you are and do something completely fresh, unconventional, and nonhabitual, you open up new pathways in the brain. You experience that as strength and it builds your capacity to be open the next time around. By contrast, each time you follow your habitual approach, you reinforce the old pathway and make it more likely that you’ll go that way once again next time around.

And don’t worry, there will be a next time… because we’re so predictable, you’ll get a chance to practice with the pattern again later.

Pema reassures: If your heart is gripped by jealousy or rage or loneliness or any other manifestation of fear, you don’t have to learn from it all at once. It’s not like if you get it right once, if you overcome your jealousy or anger once, then it’s smooth sailing with that emotional pattern for the rest of your life.

Patterns have a purpose — use them on purpose.

The pattern is in place to help us avoid feeling whatever is arising. We might complain or think we’re in it, but most likely our pattern helps us take a step back from the core of the feeling.

So here’s a fresh idea: let yourself feel. Give yourself time and permission to lean into it. Don’t talk yourself out of it, don’t should it to death, don’t wish it differently. Just feel the feeling.

And like magic, you’re out of the pattern! By changing just one thing, it’s no longer a rerun. Like Seinfeld going back into the apartment instead of out to breakfast with George, suddenly it’s a whole new story. We don’t always feel that change right away, but it’s there.

In the very act of running away from what is, fear arises.

More fear on top of whatever the fear was in the first place.

No, feeling the thing isn’t easy. That’s why our minds devise these smart avoidance techniques, but we can play with doing just one thing differently. (Havi, master of all things pattern and habit (and fun), has wonderful thoughts and advice on such things.)

And if all else fails, there’s a poem.

Please read it. Then read it again. Read it aloud. And feel it.

Catch What You Can
Jean Garrigue

The thing to do is try for that sweet skin
One gets by staying deep inside a thing.
The image I have is that of fruit —
The stone within the plum or some such pith
As keeps the slender sphere both firm and sound.

Stay with me, mountain flowers I saw
And battering moth against a wind-dark rock,
Stay with me till you build me all around
The honey and the clove I thought to taste
If lingering long enough I lived and got
Your intangible wild essence in my heart…


photo credit


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Mel October 5, 2011 at 1:20 pm

RE-RUN. Thank goodness for that Pema smartness – I shared that with a class a while back and yes, I need to hear it again, because yes. avoidance. I’m still not always conscious that I’m avoiding the feeling, but when I realize that I’ve been avoiding practicing… and writing… and… maybe even talking… I know there’s a bunch of stuff there and I need to hang tough through the process to get to the other side. Sitting and writing and Shiva Nata-ing too, hoping for some clarity.

That poem was wonderful. And your new digs are great – it’s lovely here.


michelle October 7, 2011 at 4:20 pm

thanks, mel. we get better at seeing it, then better at being with it, right!? i think that’s ‘good enough.’



Jacqueline October 5, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Shampoo directions. I always wondered when you stopped.

Thank you so much for this – a great post and you pulled together such good resources.


michelle October 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm

haaa… love the shampoo analogy. thanks for the note, jacqueline!


Madeleine October 5, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Yes, any post that cites both Pema Chodron and Seinfeld is okay with me. Really insightful, thanks!


michelle October 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm

varied resources are important, right? :)


Kim October 6, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Thank you for this invitation, & for letting be so truly from your own heart. That authenticity holds up a mirror (to where we are all bravely working). You inspire me.


michelle October 7, 2011 at 4:22 pm

thanks friend. that’s all i got….


Kim October 6, 2011 at 9:49 pm

ps – your site here is beautiful!


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