Coming through the aircraft door onto the steps, the heat hit me like a wall. I was 21, arriving in a country 650 miles from the equator, where the humidity averaged 80% and the temperature hovered around 30 degrees C (88 degrees Fahrenheit) pretty much every day. I was signed up for a 3 year stint living and working in this heat. Talk about a shock. Cool, damp England had not prepared me for this. Yikes!
My boyfriend at the time gave me some words of advice.
This was a kind of heat that slammed into you and would not be ignored. A level of heat and humidity that resulted in instant sweating if you exerted yourself just by walking. Heat that was unremitting while the sun was up. Heat that caused you to stick to the PVC seats of pick up trucks without air conditioning. What on earth did he mean, ‘Think cool.’
That wasn’t my experience of the heat. It was bothersome.
“Isn’t it hot?”, I’d exclaim while fanning myself, being uncomfortably sweaty and slightly red in the face.
And of course all this exclaiming and complaining about the heat just kept reminding me of how hot it was, which tended to lead to lots of thoughts about how uncomfortable the heat was. While these thoughts dominated, it didn’t occur to me there might be ways to experience the heat differently and it also didn’t occur to me to adapt in any way. So I:-
- moved around too quickly
- wore clothes that stuck to me and were uncomfortable
- got sweaty but only showered once a day because that’s what I did in the UK
- spent much of the time, hot and bothered.
Needing some line of defence, I decided to try and “think cool”.
To my surprise, it worked like magic. It seemed to endorse my system’s capacity to acclimatise. As soon as I heard the words, the flap around being hot seemed to drop away.
It calmed down all those agitated feelings about the heat but what is more interesting, as those thoughts calmed down, different behaviours occurred to me.
What you might call common sense came to the fore. All my pre-conceived ideas about what you wear to work, what pace you move at, how often you wash. These fell away and I adopted a different way of living. Suddenly it seemed obvious to
- Slow down
- Wear fewer, loose fitting clothes
- Take 3 cold showers a day
- Stay in the shade during the hottest part of the day
- Not let things get ‘under my skin’
To this day, if I find myself somewhere hot, I smile inside as all those ‘hot country adaptations’ click in and I can enjoy the heat.
And it occurred to me this is very similar to how we often relate to other people’s moods.
When we spend a great deal of time huffing and puffing about what mood someone is in, and how hard/difficult/horrible/unbearable/ridiculous/unwelcome it is, we just get more and more ‘hot and bothered’ and that leads to actions (or lack of action) that tend to make both suffer.
So if the person is a bit irritable for instance, and we start having a great deal of thinking about that irritability, how that person shouldn’t be irritable, how unreasonable it is, how annoying it is or how it is spoiling our day, then we soon find ourselves also getting snappy, getting into an argument or getting tense.
Needless to say this just escalates bad feeling all round.
When we remember, the person in front of us is always okay (underneath whatever mood they are in), we tend to stay calmer, and in that state, various common sense things occur to us for instance, (in the words of a famous song), we might decide to let it go (because perhaps we can see, it’s not a big deal) or we might suggest a diversion or offer support, or ask how we can help, or simply ignore it and give someone a wide berth.
Knowing the person is okay and relating to them as if they are, also gives them space to find their well-being again and so they tend to move through their mood quicker.
Thinking back now, I see how the words Think cool were an invitation to experience the heat differently. It offered a tantalising glimpse at a different relationship with the climate I found myself in.
In the same way, when we truly realise the feelings we all experience are neither good nor bad, they just are, that insight, can be enough to bring us new thinking, which in turn will bring us a new experience of our own moods and those of others.
And we begin to see how our experience is never fixed. It changes. Always. And it is our changing state of consciousness that transforms our experience. And there is something far more interesting than moods (our own or other people’s). These are simply temporary states of mind.
There is something before and beyond thoughts, feelings and moods.
And when we get curious about the fact we create both the ‘hot and bothered’ experience and the ‘think cool’ experience, then we open up the possibility of a million other ways of experiencing other people and their moods.
A new thought, Think Cool, transformed my experience of heat, allowing my pre-conceptions to fall away.
I invite you to get curious about what lies before moods (yours and other people’s) and allow an entirely different experience of life’s ups and downs to open up for you.
I’d love to know what you hear in this post, please add your comments below.