Sometimes our physical symptoms can be interpreted in a variety of ways. For instance when someone describes butterflies in their stomach, it could mean they are anxious or it may mean they are excited or maybe there is yet another explanation.
When my daughter was young, we were going to visit a friend and for the first time, she was to stay for a visit on her own. As we drove there, she said it felt as though there were butterflies in her stomach. I knew that she was probably a bit anxious about staying on her own, but also that she really like the family we were going to visit and was most likely she was also excited. Without asking her about the details her feelings, I asked her what colour the butterflies were. I asked if they were dark in colour or if they were more like the colours of the rainbow. She immediately said she thought they were the colourful kind. With this imagery we were then able to talk about how one feeling can have muliple meanings. It also allowed her to choose her emotion regardless of the physical sensation she was feeling in her body. She chose to be excited.
This story illustrates how we can choose a perspective and alter our experience. When our thoughts are focused on fear or negativity, we will often interpret our world in a negative way. If we are feeling light and hopeful we are more likely to see possibility in even difficult situations. But how can we notice how our perspectives are influencing our thoughts and actions in the world? Is this something we can actually choose?
My answer to this is that it takes practice. Becoming aware of thought patterns and emotions is much like becoming a witness of our internal world, imagining ourselves on the outside looking in. We are more likely to pay attention to our external world and to disregard our own internal workings. One way to start this practice is to take note of the external world and to then draw your attention to your responses, both thoughts and emotions. Start this practice by paying attention to your next meal. Notice your thoughts as you sit down to eat the food, then also take note of your emotions. Try to let go of judgements and just be curious. Do you think your thoughts and emotions influenced the way you experienced the food?
“Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.” ~Robin S. Sharma