Put Down Those Rocks

by Stephen Mills on April 14, 2010


We all know we are supposed to not let circumstances rule us, not get upset with what we can’t control, not be victims, etc.  The problem is that it is easier said than done.  It’s a little abstract.  Habits and human nature are not so easy to overcome.

A metaphor that really helps me is that of picking up and putting down rocks.  I don’t know where I first heard this, but it really helps when I visualize something physical like a rock.  It makes the letting go seem real; you are putting down a rock and your load instantly seems lighter.

Some of the rocks we pick up are mere pebbles, some of them are bigger rocks, and occasionally we hoist a large boulder onto our shoulders.  The pebbles most of us pick up on a daily basis add up to a heavy bag of rocks by the end of the day.  The solution is to stop picking up the rocks, and when you do, put them down immediately.

I went snow skiing about 10 years ago and somebody plowed into me and I ended up with a fractured arm near my shoulder and some broken ribs.  At that point I had broken bones, pain, inconvenience, and rehab in front of me.  All those are circumstances that were given, but in addition I started picking up rocks immediately. I picked up the anger rock at the idiot (that made it a bigger rock) who plowed into me.  I was feeling sorry for myself because I had to sit in the condo while everyone else was out having fun.  I had to breath shallow so my broken ribs wouldn’t move.  I had a lot of time to sit around and be upset wondering how I was going to type on my computer, wondering how I would drive, and about a million other things.  Poor, poor, pitiful me.  I picked up every rock in sight and then some.

We do not have to pick up all this other baggage.  And it’s really simple to put it all down when we do.  When someone cuts you off in traffic, don’t pick up the rock.  When you are standing in line and the person in front of you doesn’t seem to realize they actually have to get some form of payment out of their purse until after the final total has been rung up, don’t pick up the rock.  When somebody is rude to you, don’t pick up the rock.  When life craps on you, don’t pick up the rock.

Just visualize the rock sitting on the ground as you casually walk on by.  For any rocks you have already picked up, just stop and breathe and then visualize yourself slowly sitting the rock down and walking away.  It works wonders on your mental well-being.  You actually feel physically lighter.

What do YOU think?  Leave a comment and join the conversation.


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{ 4 trackbacks }

Life Rules: Rules For Life
April 15, 2010 at 4:15 pm
To Vent or Not To Vent
May 17, 2010 at 8:19 pm
8 Ways to Improve Your Focus and Control Your Attention
October 25, 2010 at 6:49 am
Put Down Those Rocks
June 7, 2012 at 9:06 am

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Sid Savara April 14, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Hey Stephen,

I too enjoy metaphors for abstract things like feelings, regrets – and for me, especially time passing. Though I am a bit of an outlier, as I think about time much more than most people do =)

Thanks for the great read, tweeting it!
.-= Sid Savara´s last blog ..The Definitive Guide to Organize Your Life And Get Rid of Clutter =-.


Stephen Mills April 20, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Thanks Sid, I’m starting to think about time a lot more than I used to. I think that comes with age 🙂


Ash April 14, 2010 at 11:03 pm

What a wonderful metaphor. Not only am I going to think of this, but I’m going to stroll right on by those rocks, shaking my behind and doing a little head bob.

Rocks are heavy. And dirty. And sometimes they even have slugs underneath them.


Best to leave ’em where they’re at!

Loved this.
.-= Ash´s last blog ..Leaping, Diving & Plunging Head First Into Humanity =-.


Stephen Mills April 20, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Ash, thank you for enhancing the metaphor!


Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com April 15, 2010 at 8:14 am

Sometimes a visualization makes something more real. You feel weird telling people about it but if it works for you then that’s all that matters.


Stephen Mills April 20, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Hi Richard. Thanks for your comments. I used to care only about the “truth”. Now I mostly care about what works.


Vincent April 15, 2010 at 11:13 am

Would you mind talk about the experience how you put down the burden when you have broken bonds after ribs?


Stephen Mills April 20, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Hello Vincent, I’m not sure what you mean by “broken bonds”. I’m guessing you mean some kind of relationship bond?


Tracy Todd April 15, 2010 at 11:34 am

For me, rocks are too big. Instead, I think about stones. Despite being paralyzed from the neck down, I’ve learned that as long as I have the blessing of intelligence, I have control over the stones in my life. I can choose to step on it, step over it, pick it up to add it to my collection, throw it away or use it by building with it.
Thanks for the inspiration! A great post!
.-= Tracy Todd´s last blog ..I Am a Horse =-.


Stephen Mills April 20, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Hi Tracy, yes the key is that you control the stones. You may do with them what you please. I like “rocks” because it has a more negative connotation to me and makes the metaphor work better.


Nea | Self Improvement Saga April 15, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Great metaphor! So, what do you think about throwing the rocks? LOL. I’m kidding. It’s actually a wonderful thing to visualize myself just putting them down or never picking them up in the first place.
.-= Nea | Self Improvement Saga´s last blog ..What Everyone Ought to Know About Gratitude and Appreciation =-.


Stephen Mills April 20, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Well Nea, if it helps I think throwing them might just be a great idea! Throwing them far away. Usually though calmly setting them down is more likely to get you in the mindset I’m aiming at.


B @ logos coaching April 15, 2010 at 8:59 pm

great metaphor Stephen. When we look at all the ‘hassles’ of life as a rock and assess the weight we would carry around if we picked it up it helps us make the decision from a more centred place. It gives us just enough of a different perspective on the situation
.-= B @ logos coaching´s last blog ..In the silence are all the answers you seek =-.


Stephen Mills April 20, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Hi B. Carrying around rocks is obviously an unnecessary burden. We choose to do it. Nobody or nothing forces us to do it.


Mark Harrison April 15, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Great analogy. I like to use the analogy of carrying around a hot iron rod – it’s painful and yet, in a sense, we like the pain – it’s familiar and it gives us something to focus on. But relief is so simple – drop the rod! It’s amazing how good we are at finding excuses for not doing so.


Stephen Mills April 20, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Mark, you have hit on something important – that we like the pain. I think you are right it gives us something easy to focus on – something to blame besides ourselves.


Sue Ford April 16, 2010 at 9:55 am

Good point!


Stephen Mills April 20, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Hi Sue – thanks!


Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills April 16, 2010 at 11:25 am

What a great illustration Stephen. I visualized the dumping of a whole convoy of dump trucks as your readers lightened their loads after digesting this article. I also thought about how we can turn a pebble into a boulder by dwelling on it.

On another note, I couldn’t help but notice hoe nice those stones in the picture were. Perfect for touchstone triggering.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..How Our Relationships Reveal Our Beliefs =-.


dianne lien April 16, 2010 at 5:25 pm

By “putting down the stone” will this defray the emotions that may accompany the problem? I understand the Metaphor: Although, Reality is harder to let go off. Choosing what to carry and what is trivial, maybe even intent may play a part of how easy it is to “put the stone” (problem) down? Or am I making this harder than it really would be?


Shrinjay Khandel April 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Agreed. Even I have made the same point in comments.


Earl April 18, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Hey Stephen – I like the rock idea, it’s a nice, simple way to stay in control of our reactions.

I’ve always tried to maintain an awareness of my negative reactions to situations by observing the sensations that appear in my chest and arms when I am angry, frustrated, etc. Whenever I notice such a sensation, I try to stop whatever I am doing, rethink my reaction and try to sit the rock down right then and there.
.-= Earl´s last blog ..The Attack Of The Airport Touts =-.


Paul in Idaho April 19, 2010 at 11:01 am

As I age, I am finding it easier to put the rocks down. I seem to be having a lower emotional reaction to events. These days, I pick the rock up, examine it, sometimes briefly, then try to remember to put it down. It doesn’t happen automatically, not usually.

Oddly, my rocks are usually my own projection of a particular motivation by someone else. Usually I find that I’m wrong about the why. “Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by ignorance.”

It seems like Hindu’s have got this one figured out. Interesting world view.


Joan May 14, 2011 at 12:42 am

Very helpful. I’m adopting that phrase right now, thank you. I, too, was a very, very angry person for many years, especially with my narcissistic brother and mother. Now, ……. meh, it’s not worth the enormous cost to my health.
Cheers to all!


Y8 October 27, 2011 at 7:52 pm

great post

This is a very informative article.I was looking for these things and here I found it. I am doing a project and this information is very useful me.


Rbala February 17, 2012 at 6:10 am

I like the metaphor of rocks. It makes it simple to visualize and realize when something is about to bother you. From now, I am going to know, when I need to stop picking the rock. Thanks.


Shrinjay Khandel April 29, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Metaphor is good. But I am not convinced with analogy. Reality is different in this case. I don’t think human psychology is made in a fashion which could enable it to drop the rock quickly. I think one should hold on to rock and feel its weight up to point where our arms and hands become strong enough not to feel the weight of rocks.

I think this serves a better analogy keeping in view the human psychology. We are all in for an analogy contest. I would ideally like someone to defy me on this.
What I am sharing is something that has worked for me. In the past, I use to drop the rock immediately.


Shrinjay Khandel April 29, 2012 at 7:24 pm

I think this post is in contradiction to post : “Should You Embrace Your Negative Thoughts and Urges”.


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