But I have so MANY? So what does it mean that “I am not my thoughts!”
Explore by taking a few minutes and make an effort to “Watch” what is happening in your mind….Focus if you can, even if briefly, on all the places your mind is wandering and as a result having an impact on what you feel, what you decide, and eventually on your mood and your actions.
Explore these spaces: thoughts about yesterday or last week or last year — on things you did not do, or think you did poorly, or perhaps even see as failures. These are the thoughts about any aspect or time in the past. The other direction is later today, tomorrow, next week, next year, or even further into the future. These, obviously are thoughts about things beyond this moment in time.
Thoughts that pull us into the past — especially the past we regret — pull us into sadness, and eventually, depression. Those projecting us into the future and our concerns about HOW THINGS TURN OUT pull us into concern, then typically anxiety. Further the thoughts about past and future are typically distorted…exaggerated, inflamed, self-flagalating, critical…and obviously damaging to well being……
So what do you do? Start with this quote from Eckhart Tolle in his book: STILLNESS SPEAKS. “Here is a new spiritual practice for you: don’t take your thoughts too seriously.”
My interpretation of that quote: They are just thoughts! If you’ve experimented yet with just observing your mind and where it goes, you’ll become aware that those thoughts change rapidly. Your mind skips around — from one thought to another. Meditation is the practice of letting go of thoughts — of coming back to your breathing or to a mantra or a simple process of counting your breath. Meditation allows a bit of quiet, respite, from all the wandering thoughts. When they have less sticking power, you might see that you actually feel better….that there is a “still point” or a quiet that feels peaceful, relaxing, and free from both depression and anxiety. Even if this is fleeting, it allows you to see it’s possible to LET GO of distressing thoughts.
However, many thoughts stick with us because they are so badly distorted. When you become aware of “distortions” try writing them down. When you find sentences that suggest you have totally failed, messed up your life, are a mess with a hopeless future; that you’ll never be successful at work or in relationships….WRITE THEM DOWN. The writing gets the thoughts temporarily out of your head and onto the paper.
Now, examine the thoughts and make an effort to write the truth. For example: “Failure at ______ is sad and disappointing, and I have regrets but I am NOT A FAILURE. I have the ability to change and succeed going forward.” You don’t have to believe that re-write yet; just practice telling yourself the truth. Mistakes, failures at important tasks are genuinely upsetting AND each of us can change going forward. That is the truth.
This is just one example of how THOUGHTS can be changed…..for more instruction try books I often recommend…. mine: WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? MAYBE NOT THAT MUCH! and Burns: THE NEW MOOD THERAPY. Both explain thought distortion and concrete ways to stop the mind from going down the “rabbit hole” into negativity …. You can take charge once that you see you ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS. FIRST become aware of those thoughts…..get your hands around them and know you can change them by simply first becoming aware of them.
It’s a good time to say: I can change! I can set new goals! I can feel far better! And I deserve to feel better! And as always, please ask for help when you see that you need it.