When I am feeling stressed, whether it be a result of guilt, worry, sadness, anger or fear, I feel like I need to do something to make things better. When weighed down by this pressure, I tell myself very directly that doing something is a physical act that requires the use and availability of my body. If my body is already doing something, however (which will always be the case), then I remind myself that it is physically impossible for me to engage in something else, until or unless I do. I call this the “Physical Reality Principle.”
If this mental scenario is familiar to you, try the awareness exercise I have just outlined. When feeling disturbed, if it is not clear what your mind is urging you to do, then go deeper into the thoughts behind the discomfort. See if you are troubled because of a desire to figure something out, have a situation progress more rapidly, or acquire something you do not have. Be specific about what you think will assuage your pain. Is it to be with a particular person? Is it to make a phone call or write an email? What would the behavior look like if you could actually do the thing your mind is pulling on you to do?
When you identify an action you believe would relieve your suffering, you can put it to the test. What is your physical reality in this moment? Is your body already busy doing something? (Remember that your body is your only resource for action.) If so, that means that you cannot address the other thing your mind is nagging you to do, until and if you do. It does not matter how important the thing is you think you should be doing. It is a simple matter of physics. If you are here, now, doing this, then you cannot be there, now, doing that, until and if you are.
Return to this method as frequently as needed when you are feeling mentally overwhelmed. You only have one body, and it can only be where it is in this moment. Though this is an obvious point, our thoughts still try to convince us that we can do many things at once, somehow be in more than one place at a time, and operate in the future before it is the future.
Because all moments in time possess the same natural qualities, this awareness means that it is, without question, physically impossible to ever be catering to the interests of our mind, unless we already are, because our body will always, already, be involved in some other activity. This mindful practice halts our mental jabber in its tracks so that there is nowhere for it to go, at least for the moment.
An excerpt from Body Over Mind: a mindful reality check