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  • Nicola Ball

Chewing the Cud

Whilst walking in Derbyshire with my daughter, we stumbled across a sublime scene of two large, gingeresque cows. One was standing straight towards us with great unblinking locking eyes. The other was lying down in the glorious sunshine. We stopped for a while to take in the scene.

“Ahh, I really love cows,” she sighed in saying. I just smiled. It was only seconds before she closed the silence with… “I am a cow, aren’t I?” Right there and then was a breakthrough. It had taken her months and years to be able to stand outside of herself and see a pattern. Yes, she does love cows! She thinks they are cute but they all do that same thing… chew! And Lord, she she been chewing for years.

The phrase ‘chew the cud’ means to chat in an aimless manner. But no, that was not her. We needed to drive down deeper to understand the origin of the phrase to fully understand why she was that cow. Cud is a part digested food which cows bring back into their mouths from their first stomach to chew on during times of convenience for a second time. Now we are bringing it home a little more. However, there is nothing convenient about chewing all her thoughts all of the time!

Here’s how it would go. Her mind, she would introduce a thought. It would peak her subconscious interest; a tiny grain waiting to be watered to grow and flourish. Whilst it is true that cud chewing is necessary because the foods of contemplative animals eat are difficult to digest and it takes extra effort to get all of the nutrients from their food, nothing of nutritional value would come from her thoughts. A single thought of what she may have said in passing to a friend at college, would fester. This is how her mind would go: How did she react after what I said? What was her facial expression? Should I have said what I said? Oh God, I’ve said the wrong thing! She’s goanna tell someone else what I said! They are all going to think that I am a bitch!! They are going to know that I was talking about them behind their backs!!!How am I going to put this right? Why didn’t she say something at the time?? What should I do??? How am I going to face them tomorrow???? Why can’t I just keep my big mouth shut????? And so on.

Thinking becomes over thinking. She was a total and utter COW, chewing on any and every thought several to several hundred times until she was so nauseous, sleep deprived with an inability to go to college the next morning due to severe panic attacks which would leave her passing out. So, she thought she would stay in bed with the covers over her head pretending that she had gone to college. Then she would think: Oh Lord, the guilt! What would I tell my teachers? What on earth am I going to say to my parents?? Before I knew it, months had gone past and her attendance was declining at the rate of sales of ice cream during winter. Confrontation came when I was sent a letter summoning me for an emergency attendance meeting where it will be discussed if she would stay or leave her course with immediate effect. You can imagine my reaction to opening this letter as it is normally me at the other end of the scale sending out attendance letters! I also cannot even begin to describe the panic attack she had during our conversation!

Her thoughts were toxic. She could never see any good in any situation which became her self-fulfilling prophecy. Her cud was curdling and creating a contrasting consciousness. She was creating her own stress and anxiety allowing situations to run away with themselves like tumbleweed over barren landscapes. Her life eventually become barren, too poor to produce anything fruitful.

Thankfully, after lots of support, guidance from professionals and using many different strategies, she has just completed her A Levels and we are awaiting her results. She is happy, she is mindful, she is able to look back on herself without pain and realise that she really was a cow! However, how many of us as adults have experienced the same thing at some point in our teaching career; too tired, exhausted and depleted to continue? Mmmm, an interesting thought. If you are, don't feel as though you are on your own because you are not. Isolation is the worst thing for you. Be kind to yourself. Allow a few close and trusted friends in who will care for you and your emotional self.

Do you remember being a child, laying on your back and watching the clouds go past? Not only that, I bet you would look deeper into those clouds to see shapes, people, objects, countries and giggle away. Right here and now, I want you to think about each of those clouds as one of your thoughts. Some clouds are whimsy-white, some are grey and some are nearly black, bulging and about to burst with moisture. Go on, take a moment to think about these clouds. They all pass at the same rate; the bulging-blacks are in time with the whimsy-whites. Thoughts are just the same if you allow them to be. When a dark thought comes, allow it to come. But this time, don’t chew the cud. Know it is a bad thought. Allow it to be a bad thought. Look around your thoughts for the whimsy-whites at the same time. Shit happens to everyone and you are no exception so rejoice in that thought! Know that this bad thought is just passing through and you do not need to allow it to hover over you more than it needs to. With every second and every minute that you experience, this cloud is passing by. Instead of thinking about the thought, go within and ask yourself how you are feeling. Which part of your body is feeling the worst? What sort of pain is it? By going within and noticing how this pain feels, allow your body to engage with it just for a few moments, knowing that it will pass. The next time, these feelings come across you, you will be familiar with the sensations and be able to accept it a little easier. During these times, think of the clouds which are actually above you in the sky. Visualise these clouds passing on the breeze or even better, open the window/ go outside and watch these clouds float past you. Feel the sensation of the breeze against your skin caressing you at this very moment. When the sensations ease, know that this moment has passed and let it go. Do not chase after this cloud. Do not invite the cloud to stay until the bulging-black sheds its moisture, saturating your life leaving you soggy and sad. Let it go and look for the whimsy-white taking its place… look, it’s just over there.


#selfbelief #mindfulness #visualisation

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