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?