In 2004 I went to Africa. It was the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s independence and I went there to sing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” at a celebratory event.
I remember being so inspired by the genuine joy of the people of Ghana and marveling at how much they seemed to have, emotionally, despite having so little.
I had a spare hair elastic around my wrist and the kids were obsessed with it. To them, it was an exciting new toy. The things I hardly notice that litter the bottom of my purse are also thrilling toys – perspective.
When I came home from Africa, I got a tattoo. It was a symbol from their language which means, “No one can do anything to me but God.”
At some point in history, someone decided that’s what the symbol meant and everyone accepted it as such.
I have recently decided to redefine this symbol inked on my back, between my shoulder blades. Before I tell you what it means to me now, I’ll tell you why it changed.
In life, there is what happens and there is what we think.
Those are different things.
That’s all there is. There’s the present moment, which we can call reality, and there are thoughts and perceptions of what has happened, what is happening and what might happen next.
We spend about 99.9999% of energy & attention on thoughts while spending frighteningly little time actually experiencing reality without forcing it through our filter of thought & perception.
You might want to spend some time thinking about that. That’s what I’ve been doing.
As I thought about it, I realized that 100% of my unhappiness comes from my thoughts about the past, present or future.
100%. All of it. It all comes from thought.
If I am feeling sad, that is 100% a result of my thoughts about a particular situation. If I’m just focused on the present moment, fully there, there’s no thought of said situation.
If I’m overwhelmed by cravings or disappointment in something about my physical body, all the discomfort comes from what I think about those things.
That’s pretty crazy, right? And pretty awesome!
With my thoughts, I can create pain or I can create joy.
With my attention I can experience reality or I can escape into a tunnel of thought.
I thought about that tattoo…no one can do anything to me except God.
You know what? The only things that can hurt me are my own thoughts.
As I write this, I’m challenging myself to focus today on finding joy in each moment as it happens.
When I catch my mind drifting to the past or the future or anything other than the moment I’m living, I’ll look around and find joy happening now.
Joy in the song I’m hearing. Joy in the people I see. Joy in what I get to spend my time doing.
The only things that can hurt me are my own thoughts.
I am not going to manufacture drama. I am not going to create unhappiness with my own thoughts.
I refuse to create weapons against myself.
Not happening. Not today.