Why You Mustn’t Believe Everything You Think

How To Notice Your Thoughts

How To Notice Your Thoughts

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” — Buddha

Thoughts can arise out of nowhere and wreak havoc. The Buddhist principle states: We are not the sum of our thoughts, rather the observer. Many people entertain limiting thoughts, which are grounded in an inaccurate reality: “I am not good enough” or “I am overweight.” Such thoughts can lead to self-deprecating thoughts, which fuel the emotional body. The truth is, our habitual thoughts are not indicative of who we are. This is because thoughts are habits and if repeated often enough, become formed (stuck) in our stream of consciousness and we are likely to believe them. Have you noticed this narrative in your own life, where you think the same thoughts day in day out? This is why we must observe our thoughts in the same way we observe a scenery. As the observer, the question arises: who is thinking the thought? Dissociating with our thoughts allows us to be removed from the habitual pattern of believing what we think. We believe a thought is true since our experience of it confirms it. We must try to let go of unnecessary thoughts by recognising their transient nature.

If we wish to control unwanted thoughts, we must become a witness standing at the shoreline observing our thoughts like waves coming in. Some waves appear fast and furious, yet break as they hit the shoreline. Others slowly make their way in and disappear. As the observer, we witness our thoughts and remain detached from them. The witness or observer does not become invested in the waves any more than respecting there will always be thoughts (waves) appearing in the mind. We become the noticer of our thought process and cease to identify with them. We think many thousands of thoughts a day, many of which are repetitive in nature. That is, we rethink the same thoughts day in day out without much consideration. For example, recall the last time your thoughts were “stuck” in a negative or repetitive state? No matter how hard you tried, the thoughts kept emerging — often in a fast and furious manner.

We must appreciate our thoughts are simply, thoughts. They come and go without an agenda. Regrettably, many people believe because they experience thoughts, they must be true — which is not the case as eluded to earlier. Thoughts can overwhelm us, since the meaning we assign them fuels them with energy to thrive throughout our neural network. When enough attention is given to a thought, it becomes a habituated pattern and creates the corresponding emotions and physiological responses in the body. What does this mean? If I asked you to close your eyes and picture yourself eating your favourite meal, you might recall a scene that involved tasting the food and engaging the wonderful sensations that accompany it. Observing your thoughts is not dissimilar. As thoughts enter your stream of consciousness, instead of interacting with them, simply observe them. Moreover, you may wish to label disempowering thoughts as they emerge, so your awareness becomes attuned to screening them. This means the next time they appear, your mind recognises and filters un-useful thoughts.

For example, if visualising the meal reminded you of an unpleasant experience, you might label the thought as “sad” or “angry.” The key is not to give life to your thoughts by creating other thoughts. Simply identify it and let it go. There are far too many thoughts running throughout our mind to catalogue them all and over-stimulation of thoughts becomes a bad habit. Many busy people become addicted to incessant thoughts and feel empty without the mental drama. Consequently, this may bring up all manner of negative thoughts about oneself.

Consciousness knows and sees all. So for example, when you’re at a park observing dogs or children playing, your mind will want to add a narrative to what you see, although your nervous system knows what it sees and feels. This is consciousness running in the background. You know a red kite when you see it, yet your mind is habituated to create the thought: “Look at the bright red kite” to validate what it sees. This is normal, however it can become addictive if we are not mindful of it. Ultimately, we must take control of our thoughts and not become a slave to our internal chatter. As we become familiar with our mental landscape, thoughts no longer control our life. We create a powerful lens in which to connect with the past while no longer being imprisoned by self-defeating thoughts.


Originally published at Medium

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