Always Well Within

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The Tiny Guide to Overcoming Everyday Obsessions

Red Rock Canyon Obsessions

I obsess at times.  Do you?

Let’s clarify what obsession means:

An idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.  [Google]

I don’t mean obsessive-compulsive disorder.  I just mean those itsy-bitsy, everyday obsessions that take you off-track until you suddenly wake up once again and think, “What?”

Obsession makes me spin my wheels, lose precious time, and stress too much.  One of my important goals for the year is to recognize when I’m in a state of obsession and let go.   I’m intent on releasing these ruling tendencies, bit-by-bit.

Here’s my challenge and my plan.

Everyday Obsessions:  The Challenge

I especially obsess about creative ideas, social media, and perfection.  How about you?  What’s your flavor of obsession?

The lure of a creative idea.  When an imaginative idea captures my mind, I’m held prisoner as it throbs again and again and again.  It pulls on me to act right now, whatever time it might be, whatever else I might be doing.  It pushes me to do more, even though it might be better to do something else or maybe even to rest.

I’m captured by the passion of a new idea far more than going the distance.  Someone told me that’s a personality type, but they say I can learn to skillfully work with it.

Social media compulsion.  I want to touch people and make a difference in their lives.  I’m not a megalomaniac.  I just want my writing to be read and my courses to be used and for all of it to benefit others.

So I sometimes feel compelled to be ever-present on social media.  If I miss a beat, my writing and courses might be lost and never found in the obscurity of social morass.

But I know too much digital time is not healthy for my body, mind, or soul.  Whenever I find I’ve lost myself in the whirlwind of likes, hearts, pluses, and tweets, I’ll go outside for a breath of fresh air.

Making things perfect.  Happily, perfectionism is less and less a driving force than before.  Maybe you’ve noticed those occasional misspelled words!  Yes, sometimes I make mistakes and no longer get all wrought up about it.   I’ve even been known to laugh when the error is a weird play on words.  Isn’t that a step up from embarrassment or shame?

Still, I’ll suddenly find myself spending way too much time looking for the perfect photograph.  I’ll take that as a clue to stop and settle for what works just fine.

Everyday Obsessions:  The 4 Countermeasures

I know it’s  just human to have a few teeny obsessions so I’m not going to be hard on myself.  But I’ll apply these 4 remedies to gradually erase them away.

1. Awareness

Every time I notice I’m obsessing, I’ll stop and divert my attention someplace else.  It might be a more productive venture, communing with nature, or taking a nap.

I know interceding in obsession is a practice.  The tendency will not magically change overnight so patience and humor will come along for the ride.  Slowly, with repeated awareness and counter-action, the obsessions will melt away.

2. Understanding

I don’t feel I need to analyze or understand every obsession.  I can simply stop.

But sometimes, it does help to look and ask, “Where the heck did this come from?”

“Oh yes!  It’s that pesky need to be acknowledged subverting me once again.  I know of many healthy ways to acknowledge myself without indulging in obsession.  I’ll try one of those”

3.  Boundaries

I’ve set up my 16 Zen work habits so I have a healthy way to go.  I keep my good habits list close to my side and revisit it several times a day.

These good habits make it easier to hold my boundaries and say no to an obsession that’s trying to seduce me into a non-productive void.

4.  Deep Reflection

Most of what I obsesses about is a total waste of time.  Asking a deeper question can help me to cut right through.

  • Will this matter when I die?
  • All this will dissolve sooner or later.  It’s not permanent or lasting, so why should it matter so much?

Our own present joys and sorrows are just the fruit of seeds we ourselves planted in the past, and it is pointless to be obsessed by hopes and fears about them. – Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

How can obsession survive truth staring it in the face?

Focus and Obsession Are Not the Same

Last year, I consciously stopped pushing myself so hard and found a healthier balance of work and play.  I see these everyday, obsessive tendencies as subtle, stubborn remnants of the inner pusher, waiting to be transformed.

Almost all of us obsess a bit now and then.  A little obsession can give you the focus you need to accomplish your goals.  But focus and obsession are not the same.  When you begin to feel strained because you’re stuck in a loop, keep pushing in a way that doesn’t bring results, or feel out of alignment with your values, it’s time to put the brakes on obsessive thought or activity.

So tell me, what is it that you obsesses about?  Do you have an effective remedy?  

I’m grateful for your presence!  If you’re new, please subscribe to my monthly note, Wild Arisings.  If you liked this article, I’d love for you to share it on your favorite social media network.   Thank you! With love, Sandra


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  1. Daniel Zandt

    Lovely post as usual Sandra 🙂

  2. *grin* For the same reasons you mention, I used to be obsessed with social media and class participation, until life organized itself in such a way that there was little time to be on social media (and I don’t like -pre-scheduling tweets)- now there are often *entire days* I don’t turn the computer on…and life still goes on! Now, when I am on social media, I am fully engaged and I love the experience.

    I also used to be a perfectionist – mainly because I had patterning from an abusive childhood (where ‘perfection’ – if one could determine what that was – meant potentially less pain). When I started practicing presence to unfolding, years ago, that dissolved the ‘perfectionist’ tendencies.

    Any remedy I have (and use) is around the concepts of presence to unfolding. When I am centered in love and gratitude, each moment feels perfect (even what some might label imperfect) because I am not judging it, I am feeling into and living it as it is, appreciating the dynamics and energies.

    The feel of this article is lovely, Sandra – and your new offering is beautiful in all ways. Thank you!

    • Hello Dear Joy!

      Entire days “off.” Sounds lovely and so well deserved. You have a beautiful presence on social media!

      I love your aspiration to be in each moment and allow it to be perfect as it is. Letting go of judgment does that, doesn’t it? And, it pretty much vanquishes obsessions too! 🙂 You have cultivated such a wonderful way of flowing in your life.

      Thanks for your sweet words about my new offering. I’m so exciting about it. It’s like coming home to all the amazing people I know and meeting new ones at the same time.

  3. “Will this matter when I die?” is the #1 remedy I use when I find myself obsessing about things of which I have no control. Another question I often ask myself – “is it really that important”. Either of these questions will stop me in my tracks long enough to become aware of just how useless obsessing is. Obsessing is akin to worrying and worrying/obsessing depletes me of valuable energy and brain cells that I could use more productively.

    • Hi Gladys,

      That’s such a quick way to deal with obsession/worry. You’re right, there’s so much we cannot control. I’m inspiring that you value your energy and the healthiness of your brain cells!

  4. Love this Sandra and it’s time for me to set up those boundaries. My new morning creative practice + my spiritual practice is giving me boundaries and reflection that are making me more aware and full of joy

    • Hi Suzie,
      I love how you are reigniting your creative practice right now. There are ebbs and flows but I know we’ll stay the course. A big yes to awareness and joy!

  5. I hate to say it, but I recognize a lot of what you say Sandra! Well maybe not the obsessing about social media. Love the tips you offer and I’m signing up for your weekly stress relief tips ‘cos I think it’ll be lovely to have your words ringing in my ears as a gentle reminder!

    • I think we all have a few tiny obsessions, Elle! We can work on them together. 🙂 Glad you’ll be joining our happy family living with ease.

  6. Like Elle, I relate far too much to this post, Sandra! Oh well, progress, not perfection, right?

    Sometimes big-hearted, giving people have a tough time reining things in . . . at least that’s the break I’ve giving myself. You’ve reminded me though, that I need to keep to move that Zen work habits list a little closer!

    • It’s okay, Beth – we’re just human! I agree let’s celebrate every little positive step and be gentle with ourselves along the way. A big heart is beautiful and I’m in awe of that!

  7. I had to laugh at the part about spending way too much time looking for the perfect photograph. I do that as well. Your photos always look great and make your blog stand out visually.

    • HI Wendy, So glad we could laugh about this together. Thanks for the positive feedback too! I do love evocative photos so it’s a matter of finding the right balance of diligence and letting go.

  8. Totally busted….the lure of the creative idea and the social media compulsion! GAH!

    Now…what am I doing about them both? On the creative idea front, I’m keeping the main thing the main thing until it’s DONE and simply keeping a list on my ginormous white board wall of the creative ideas. This way, I acknowledge the idea and get it out of my head as quickly as possible so I won’t obsess over it or go on a shiny object snipe hunt.

    Social Media Compulsion – my worst. Last night I deleted FB off my phone. Yes, I can still access it, but the fact that I made a it a little harder makes a difference. I’m also setting the timer on my phone. 30 minute chunks and when the timer goes off, I close out of social media. Also, in the morning, when I wake up, my phone stays upstairs while I practice yoga and write in peace.

    Great article Sandra!!

    • So impressive, Peggy! You seem positively determined to get a handle on your tiny obsessions too. I love the aggressive strategies you’re taking. I’m with you.

  9. When I feel myself pushing for something to get done, I listen to the push and try to refocus. I often find your little mantra from last year “the year of less pressure” pop into my mind Sandra, it really has stuck with me for some reason. It instantly triggers some awareness around what I am pushing, obsessing over…

    “Will this matter when I die?” This simple question gets me every time and always brings me back.

    • These little reminders can make a big difference, can’t they! I’m delighted you’ve found these wonderful ways to come back to the present and to what’s truly important to you. Thanks for sharing them with us. They inspire me and remind me how simple it can be.

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