What do you think?

Our thoughts shape the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us. The biggest changes in my personal journey of growth came about when I began to recognize that the majority of the thoughts I was thinking weren’t actually true (big thank-you to Byron Katie’s The Work https://thework.com/). What?! Thoughts aren’t true?! That’s right. Most of us have a constant stream of thoughts running through our heads. It’s like watching the ticker-tape at the bottom of the screen on a TV news channel – mostly on red alert. And most of it is FAKE NEWS!

So what do you think? As I learned through various trainings in mindfulness practice, the majority of my thoughts (and probably yours too if you take time to notice) could be divided into two categories: reminiscing about the past and getting lost in regrets of “if-onlys” or bombarding myself with “what-ifs” and catastrophizing about some imagined form of dystopian-style future for myself or my children. Naturally, this meant I was existing in a perpetual state of stress and fear.

When I learned to step back, breath and examine the thoughts, I began to notice that there were a number of repetitious thought loops and common themes to my constant over-thinking. Using an activity called the Daily Pages from the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I became more aware of the habitual thoughts and patterns that were driving me. Caught up in these thought loops, which would then trigger corresponding feelings which in turn would create a deeper and deeper groove for the thought-train to run along. https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/

And so, the antedote?

Meditation. High on the list. I attended an 8 week MBSR training in Singapore led by Sheryl Bathman, http://integralmeditationasia.com/about/about-toby-ouvry/ as well as regularly attending various classes with Toby Ouvry http://integralmeditationasia.com/about/about-toby-ouvry/ and a few online courses. I attended a 10-day Vipassana Silent Retreat which – whilst challenging on many levels – really gave me a clearer understanding of the meaning of being present. https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/about/vipassana

Change the way that you talk to yourself about yourself in your head. Yes. I did this. It worked. I consciously forced (in a kind and loving way naturally!) myself to be kind to myself about myself. I created a loving mantra that I would repeat over and over in my head. If I could spend 40+ years allowing myself to be bullied by myself in my head, I would need to make a conscious effort to reverse it. And so, deliberately, I began with “I am happy, I am well and I am loved”. Trust me, it felt ridiculous at first, but my negative side (having been so dominant in my psyche for many years) wasn’t going to give up its space in my head that quickly or easily. Slowly, as the new habit built, my inner experience of myself and my automatic thinking habits began to change.

Focus on the good. Whatever has happened in your life, whatever your perception of those events, whatever your core beliefs about how the world works bringing your focus onto what is working, what is good, what is beautiful will bring about change. Gratitude and appreciation for the good will change you. If you wish to be inspired, watch Alice Hertz-Sommer, survivor of World War Two’s Holocaust explain, at the age of 108, her philosophy on how to live a long and happy life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnoQ8F_CUfE

So. What do YOU think?

Transformation

People reach out to me as a therapist when they feel stuck.   Something isn’t working. Something is wrong.  I’m suffering.  I’m in pain.  My heart is broken.  I feel so flat. Nothing seems to matter much to me any more.   I want my life to change.

Now, if you’ve being hanging around on Planet Earth for a few years you’ll know by now that the path through life isn’t guaranteed to be a smooth one and life for many people often involves pain, suffering, disappointment and misery at some point or the other. Often on the way to our dream life we find that something goes wrong, something gets lost in translation and life doesn’t quite work out the way we thought it was meant to. We can’t control what happens to us (no matter how much New Age Positive Thinking we do).  We can only control how we decide to respond to it.  How we allow it to shape us or define us.

Often people tell me that they want something different in their lives to the reality of what is.  And that is where their pain resides.  It is the gap between what is actually happening and what they wish was happening.  Trauma shapes the way we perceive the world around us, how we interpret social situations, how we translate events, and the narratives we create to keep ourselves safe. There are so many pieces to this puzzle of reality it is hard to know where to focus.  And it is our focus that transforms our experience of reality.

Often we claim we want to transform our lives but transformation involves surrender, acceptance and a willingness to change our story about who we are, what we believe about ourselves and what we think about the world around us.  We can’t demand that others change and expect not to do the work ourselves.

And yet, so often, what we say we want and what we are really open to are very different things.  Caroline Myss wrote a wonderful article on this topic that made me nod my head in agreement as I read it.  Click here to read it for yourself   As usual, she nails it.  So many of us claim we want to change but in reality?   Our ego tries to control and limit – as egos so often do.  “Dear God, Please change these things in my life, but only in ways that I won’t find too difficult or painful.  Don’t make me look at my Shadow, my role in creating this situation or how I might be contributing to or perpetuating my own pain.   Oh and please Dear God, make it all about other people and events and make sure that they change to make my life better.”   Hmmm.

So do you REALLY want to transform your life?  Are you REALLY ready to surrender? What are you willing to give up to undergo transformation?  Your ego?  Your point of view?  Your need to be right?  Your need to be a victim?  Your need to be the hero?  The rescuer?  Any transformation worth its salt must involve change.  It must also involve death. Yes death!  Death of the old way of being, the old way of seeing, speaking, thinking, acting and the birth of the new.  Ego death.  There are many archetypal representations of this energy.   One of my favourites is the Hindu Goddess Kali.  Kali is one of many goddesses from ancient cultures that represent the cycle of life, death and rebirth.  Kali is a demon-slayer.  The goddess Durga is attempting to kill the demon Raktabija but with every wound she inflicts on him, more demons are spawning as his blood drips onto the ground.  Kali comes to Durga’s aid, preventing the demon army from spawning by catching the drops of Raktabija’s blood on her lolling tongue before they are able to take root in the Earth and multiply.  She brings an end to suffering by facing the enemy, preventing the negativity from taking root and multiplying.   She slaughters the remaining demons and dances on their corpses.  Only when Shiva lays himself beneath her feet can she shake off her destructive dance and become calm again.

Only when we are willing to engage with the determination and ferocity of the archtypal Kali to face our inner demons, and stop our repetitive negative “stinking thinking” (as they call it in the 12-step programme) can we begin our transformation.   As author and teacher Tosha Silver writes, Kali is the embodiment of a ferocious love, a love of the Self, and a willingness to stand against the Ego’s games and take no prisoners!

My favourite authors on this topic:

Byron Katie “Loving What Is”
Tosha Silver “Outrageous Openness”

And, of course, anything and everything by Caroline Myss!