Composting Your Thoughts
Do you ever feel like your mind is buzzing with thought after thought? This happens to me often. I used to think it would help to get rid of or suppress the thoughts, then I could be mindful and focused. I was wrong! That did not work! I recently learned about composting thoughts as a strategy to deal with the sometimes constant unhelpful rumination in my mind.
First, I notice when I am having a stream of thoughts. Then, as my meditation teacher taught me, I visualize each thought as a green bean in a colander. As each thought comes up, I take a green bean out of the colander and sort it. Helpful thoughts, crisp and firm beans, go in the bowl and unhelpful thoughts, mushy and discolored, go in the compost bucket.
At first, I thought I was throwing out the unhelpful thoughts but then I thought about how compost turns into nutrient-rich soil, eventually. I am placing these thoughts aside for now and giving them a chance to develop into something more helpful. This sorting exercise helped my mind to settle down, figure out what types of thoughts I was having, and notice when I was telling helpful and unhelpful stories to myself. As a result, I become more aware of what is cycling through my head. My thoughts feel less in control of my mind. My body is less tense and my breathing has slowed. Awareness is the first step towards change and growth.
So, next time you find your mind racing with thoughts of the past, the future, and all the messages we send ourselves…
TRY COMPOSTING YOUR THOUGHTS…
- First, realize your mind is racing with thoughts of all kinds.
- Then, try to visualize the colander of green beans. Each bean is a thought. As each thought arises, label it. Helpful or not helpful.
- Then, make a decision. Sort it. Place it in the bowl or the compost bucket.
- Lastly, reflect on how you feel (in your body and your mind) before and after this exercise.
WHEN SHOULD I TRY THIS?
Composting your thoughts can be a helpful exercise when you are feeling overwhelmed with racing thoughts in your head. Sometimes I use this method when I am about to sleep after a busy day and I start cycling thoughts through my head. Suddenly I am wide awake! Composting and sorting my thoughts helps me settle down and get ready for sleep. This can also be helpful after a challenging situation that leaves my mind busy with an inner narrative that does not serve me well but keeps repeating in my mind. Next time you find yourself with thoughts running through your mind, try sorting and composting your thoughts. Pay attention to what happens to the mind and the body. For me, this awareness can lead to renewed presence and growth. As I often say, Practice, Reflect, and Improve.