1 good breath + 1 good question =
No, but can anything halt a running rumination, never mind dissolve it? I maintain that a good breath plus a good question has potent reset power. I’ll give you three footholds to this here:
In a hurry? Skip to #3 and grab some potentially arresting questions for next time the mind tries to run away with you.
1. A story
I recently went to the coast of Maine for the love of sea and summer and the place itself. It’s so lovely to breathe that clean air full of salt—and consciously breathing is my favorite reset.
One day, I got into a muddy line of rumination. You know when you throw a whole relationship into question? That. Reality: sunshine and blue sky. My mental space: a dank, festering atmosphere for some putrid specimen to grow unimpeded and keep spawning hands to palpate for problems. (Yeah, yuck.)
Standing outside to feel my feet on the earth (I was going for grounding to move out of my head), I heard a bird call I couldn’t identify. From grounding, the simple act of connecting to one of my senses brought me more fully back to presence. That’s when I took a breath that I actually paid attention to (coming closer to presence still), and I reached for a question.
Let me add that I was already aware of the line of thinking that kept reasserting itself, and I had already consciously noted some wise stuff. (It hadn’t fully taken yet, but I don’t consider that a problem; I trust the process.) These things I knew:
So I reached for a question and this came right in: What if I needed nothing from her?
Nailed it. I felt an immediate and pure release. This could be a good daily question to ask the self about anyone close, and it’s especially brilliant for a romantic/primary partner.
Because you already know this, don’t you? You actually don’t need anything from anybody. The best work of unsticking from what you think you need from another (certainly the beloved) really happens between you and you, and you can leave them out of it. They don’t need to show up in any way (except however they do) for you to keep letting go of wanting to control them or of expecting them to make you comfortable. (Um, and rumination doesn’t help.)
The question reset me and I had a great day from there (peninsula, beach, lobster) and felt love and joy with the human being in question. The pure truth of needing nothing from another in order to be well, happy, safe, in love—anything—came in so fully for me that my mind didn’t even try to pick the rumination back up.
Now, you know the mind will typically try. In my case, on that day, it had robotically picked up a small set of repeating thoughts for at least an hour with factory-set arms of steel. I just don’t let this sort of thing move in for the day, so note that I was already in my process. Most important, I hadn’t been believing those thoughts. I had been witnessing them and telling myself truer things. So this probably set me up to be more open to the power of the question. It’s a useful thing to practice, that not believing your own thoughts.
A good question, even if it doesn’t just dissolve the whole thing, can throw a wrench in the works of a rumination on auto-pilot. The question creates an opening, or a sense of possibility that you could actually let it go. That’s pretty amazing in itself. You can best expand that sense of possibility through presence—not with further thinking.
2. An important distinction
It helps to clearly make this distinction: yes, you can meet challenging mental stuff through clear thinking processes of inquiry or contemplation; rumination is not that! When you give full focus to straightening out your thinking in a time you’ve designated for that—perhaps with a clear helper or a tool like The Work of Byron Katie—that’s a productive, helpful way to meet the mind. Rumination just hijacks your thinking. Rumination means mindless mental chewing as you do other things. It’s no good. It robs you of presence, expands whatever anxiety or emotion matches the content, compounds confusion, and further furrows the brow.
Want to play more with presence? It’s not hard. Keep coming back to the breath, and use grounding and checking in with your senses to connect to here and now. It takes rumination-thwarting focus to keep coming back to now, to what the moment is feeding you through the body and its senses. You might call it hard, but it’s not. It’s a practice, and it’s worth repeating (while the repeating thoughts that take over if you don’t do this are truly of no use to you).
3. Some questions
There are so many good questions to ask yourself. Just reach for it. Try out a few (without necessarily answering them), just to see how they hit you. You’ll know in your body when you’ve got one worth keeping in view for a minute. The right question may need no answering either: the truth it points to is self-evident.
That last one can actually be fun. I call it the Here and Now game. It allows you to get curious about or fascinated by where you were in time (years away, sometimes!) and what place you were in beyond your current physical location (an ocean away, perhaps). It’s a playful way to call yourself back to the moment, your actual reality. Take a conscious breath and ask, How far away did I just go in time and space? Could be all you need to foil the rumination.
Love & blessings, Jaya
Rumination post #1
Cutting through the illusions that keep rumination in place. (No, you won't figure it out faster if you keep reviewing it nonstop.)
Rumination post #2
Is good rumination a thing? Ruminations that support well-being.
Rumination post #3
Right here! A good breath and a good question can do the trick.
This is the last one!
My Rumination Retreat happens next weekend, August 9-11.
Yes! Still room for a few women to join us. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or just learn more and register online.
Meet Kala. (Kala Vivienne Williams)
A shiatsu therapist, yogini, and long-term meditator, Kala will be at my Rumination retreat, leading us in out-of-head-into-body meditation a couple of times.
The retreat will include some silent, solo time to gather materials and create little ephemeral altars/inspired works of art. The two below are the most recent ones I've made.
2 videos on rumination
Click on button below for a video on redirecting rumination in the moment.