Flip Your What IF


I so often hear about the suffering created and endured when someone continually asks “what if”…as in:

  • What if it all goes wrong?
  • What if I had done it differently?
  • What if I don’t make the right choice?

We all do this, and I know I used to do it a lot, and it can be nothing short of crippling. The reason it’s so detrimental is that the power of imagination can put us in the physical and emotional state that feels like we’re experiencing the outcome when it hasn’t even happened, or it’s done and over with. 

Given that we have such imaginative power, why not use it for good? The simplest example would be to ask instead:

  • What if if all goes well, or good enough?
  • What if it was ok the way it was (it got me here, didn’t it)?
  • What if any choice is fine, and I learn from it, no matter what?

Notice how it feels to ask these alternative questions. There’s a lightness. You’re not forcing yourself to do anything. You’re simply considering possibility. Inquiring in this way seems to open up a space, even without answers or absolutes or assurances. It doesn’t tell you not to worry, or shower you with platitudes, or invalidate your feelings. It’s a simple offering of another version of reality.

I love this technique, because it is so gentle and nonviolent, and yet so powerful. It can be expanded even further to issues of stress, anxiety and depression, and meditation/increasing awareness through self-inquiry:

  • What if I didn’t run away from this moment – what would that be like?
  • What if I’m ok exactly as I am?
  • What if I actually have everything I need in this moment?
  • What if I lived the experience of this moment (vs what mind says about it)?
  • What if I allowed everything to be as it is in this moment?

This idea of asking “what if?” is something I found in Adyashanti’s book True Meditation as a technique for meditation. I love it and I am grateful for the discovery of these magic words that have made such a change in my life and my meditation, and that of others, as well.

About Cynthia M Clingan

Cynthia Clingan is a licensed professional clinical counselor in Columbus, Ohio who offers somatic psychotherapy, spiritual coaching, and meditation and mindfulness instruction.
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