“Nothing in the world can bother you as much as your own mind, I tell you. In fact, others seem to be bothering you, but it is not other, it is your own mind.” - Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Thoughts are very useful when it comes to solving problems, but as much as we like to depend on it in our daily lives...we shouldn’t overuse them. Without a proper management of our thoughts, they can get us into big trouble and spiral out of control. Here are some tips on how to use your thoughts more peacefully without them taking control of your life.
First of all, you are not only your thoughts. They don’t define you as a human being but are only a part of yourself. Thoughts only happen in the brain and truth is...you are so much more than them. You have feelings, sensations, a whole body to move around. Really there is much more to enjoy about your whole self, regardless of your thoughts.
Even if you understand that you are much more than your thoughts, you might associate with them quite a lot, forgetting for a moment that your thoughts are not the reality that is in front of you...but only an experience that you can observe inside of yourself.
Losing sight of the fact that thoughts only exist inside our head can happen very easily and that is because...thoughts are versatile, quick, and can take a realistic form.
Thoughts can take on many forms, and be realistic enough for us to confuse them with reality. When we daydream, we are doing just that...being stuck in our fictional thinking without realizing it. Daydreaming is not that big of a deal, most of us do it from time to time, but it’s the non-differentiation with reality which can get problematic.
If you have a positive thought, then all is great...that thought can give you more energy, motivation, and happiness...but what if it’s negative? Negative thoughts can lead to many difficult emotions such as depression, anger, sadness, jealousy...and make you act in ways that will get you into even more trouble.
That is precisely why you must watch them and take some time to understand how they function. Really your thoughts can control a lot of areas in your life if you don’t show enough interest in them.
Your thoughts are inside of you, and if you react badly to them or do not take the time to listen to what they have to say...they will continue to damage your life. When you have a friend that is mad at you, if you don’t listen patiently to what he has to say and care for him...he will continue to be angry. Thoughts work in the same way. It’s not by avoiding them and distracting yourself that you will make them go away because...they have nowhere to go and are here to stay until you've truly listened to them...until you’ve truly learned to let them be the way they are. After all, you wouldn’t stay angry at your arm if it didn’t move the way you wanted it to, because it is a part of yourself and is very helpful to you.
To make friends with your thoughts, the best way is really just to observe them without judgment until you’ve turned them into your best friends.
When I try to force a friend to do something, usually it makes them want to do it even less...and thoughts are like that too. If you try to force your thoughts to change, you are making it harder for them to actually undergo that change. It’s by letting them be and accepting the way they currently are that they will change with time.
It takes a great amount of patience and care to change a negative thought into a positive one, so give yourself some time...but know that it is very doable and does not require you to do much.
It all starts with curious observation rather than usual judgment. In your daily life, if you tend to judge others’ behaviors and way of living, you will surely do the same with your own thinking, and if you tend to judge...so be it, let’s accept it.
Sometimes it can get confusing to understand what is really non-judgmental observation. Here is an example:
Judgmental thought A: “My feet hurt and I don't like that”
When you see that thought, you are observing it and being aware of its existence. If you stop there and just observe, great...but if you judge that thought because you don’t like it, you might have the following thought:
A -> Judgmental Thought B: “I shouldn’t have a judging thought”
This is just another jugement. It can go on and on for quite some time...this judgmental perspective, but with practice you will get less reactive in your thinking and allow your thoughts to come and go as they please...and they will change more positively from doing this.
Like we said before, thoughts will start to change and be less out of control when we learn to observe them non-judgmentally. Observation of thoughts is a skill that can be trained and improved with time, no matter how bad you are at it...and that’s excellent news. Each and every one of the following exercises does not focus on the thoughts themselves but only on building the skills required for you to observe less judgmentally any thoughts you might have. Those exercices strengthen your concentration, patience and calm. Here are excellent ways to manage better your thoughts.
This meditation type is very simple in theory and quite difficult to master in practice. You just have to focus on an object (sound, visual, touch, smell, taste, mental) and keep that object in mind. Everytime your mind wanders to observe other objects, you notice it and then go back gently to looking at the same object again...like I said, extremely simple in theory. Here are 2 ways to practice one-pointedness meditation
For this meditation type, you will focus on the ambient sounds without judging if they are good or bad:
For this meditation type, you will focus on the visual aspect of an object in front of you...the flame of a candle:
You might feel your eyes getting uncomfortable at first, but with time you’ll find this exercise easy on your eyes.
This is the most simple and easy meditation type, which I recommend the most. Here is how to practice it:
At headpause, we organize activities that will help you be more aware of your thoughts, let them come and go as they please, and therefore manage them better without having them taking control of your life so much. We have a free meditation group every week to help you practice meditation and build the skills you need to manage your thoughts and a mindfulness workshop to help you understand your thoughts, be more aware of them, and learn other practices that will help you achieve more peace of mind.
1 March 2018