Origins of Thought Haibun

Cherubs by Michelangelo, Courtesy of Samui Art

Cherubs by Michelangelo, Courtesy of Samui Art

Yesterday I walked gingerly over a six-inch thick sheet of ice to close my garage door. Slowly I turned back across it to my car, eager to pick up my daughter from preschool. I thought with hostility of ice, winter, and arctic temperatures, while I fumbled with my gloves, even though I did not fall.

Then I thought about thinking itself, where had those negative thoughts come from? I remembered how a fresh dusting of snow glints in the sunlight, how much fun my boys had digging snow tunnels and forts and I remembered sledding and hot chocolate. I smiled and felt immeasurably happier. I remembered my joy when the first flakes fell. I decided to view the last days of winter cheerfully. Spring is coming soon, and then winter will be a delight to look forward to again. Now where had those thoughts come from?

When I was in my teen years, my thoughts were often dark. I read horror, murder mysteries and psycho suspense with gusto, imagining death, blood and gore without flinching. I rarely gave any space to positive thoughts, except for some vague idea that my life would be better when I was on my own.

monsters within
words spilling blood
monsters without

My own life seemed cheap, all things absurd, all cultural mores without depth or meaning, all of us caught in a spider web of habits developed by people long dead. Pointless.

How did I get from there to here, where negative thoughts are automatically balanced by positive ones and my mind achieves serenity? I no longer dwell in the dark places or give voice to angst, betrayal and pain, despite treading water in it for years.

I had an epiphany. I’m not sure I should share it. Things that are too simple are often confused with the simple-minded. And yet, simple is the curve of a throat that make you catch your breath. Simple is a blue sky after a storm, the sun reflecting in all the wet places. Simple is ice in the summer or a warm hand when yours is icy.

If you are still reading, you may wonder what my epiphany was. In that case, I will tell you: I control my own thoughts. That’s it. No matter how dark, or scary or hurtful others are, they cannot control my thoughts unless I let them. I can look for beauty and good memories, and focus on those, letting the rest go. So I did, every time the negative thoughts came, I used mental muscle to shove them aside and substitute positive ones. Over time, the initial herculean effort became an easy, automatic one.

I came home from picking up my daughter, stepped onto the ice, and BAM, slammed into the trash bin, so thoughtfully provided by my city sanitation department. My first thought: that wasn’t so bad. Next thought: OWWW!!! That thought lasted longer than I like to remember, but eventually my well-trained brain found happy thoughts again: I’m so glad I didn’t break anything. At least my daughter won’t have to risk walking over it. My driving is done for the day. I can go lie down for half an hour. Spring is coming.

clouds part
rays of sunshine push through
contemplate joy

Inspired by Michelangelo, Haibun Thinking Prompt #7 and Samui Art.