It’s pretty amazing to realize that most of us have thousands of thoughts in a day, and the majority of us are oblivious to our thoughts and what we’re actually thinking.
If you believe, like I do, that our thoughts are powerful in creating our life circumstances, how can we let something as important as our mind and our thinking be out of our control?
Our thoughts determine our physical, emotional and spiritual health, our relationships, our careers, and pretty much everything else. So with the magnitude of this realization, how can we go blindly through our lives without mastering the art and science of thinking and thought?
I lead a “Mindfulness of Thought” group last evening and asked everyone, “what have you learned in your life that required some time and effort.” People listed things like; “computer skills, math, yoga, skiing, tai chi, Zumba” and so on. Then I asked people: “How much time have you spent learning about how your mind and your thoughts work”? Most people laughed and acknowledged not very much if any time at all.
When we really think about it, we realize that we have our priorities messed up. Most of us spend most of our lives trying to get away from what is going on in our head. We continually fight and resist our thoughts and do everything to avoid our own minds. But all this avoidance catches up with us in and it looks like, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual breakdowns.
Mindfulness is the big buzz word right now and rightfully so. It is hugely powerful and life-transforming when we begin to live our lives more mindfully.
Living mindfully means we are aware of our thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and our environment on a moment to moment basis.
We’re not only aware of it, but we accept exactly what is showing up in the moment. It’s easy to accept when we’re feeling, happy, content and peaceful, but not so easy when we’re feeling anxious, depressed and lonely. But when we commit to living more mindfully, we’re committing to the full range of human experience and emotion.
Last night, in the group meditation, we spend some time in silence observing our thoughts. Some people were amazed that when they started to observe their thoughts that they had gaps in their thinking. For some of the participants, it was the first time they had ever paid attention to their thoughts.
Why is observing our thoughts so transformative?
Because when we can become aware of our thoughts we all of a sudden have the power to choose. We can choose to nurture the thoughts that serve us and our dreams and pay less attention to the thoughts that are just annoying and repetitive.
The key though is we can’t just decide okay now I’m going to become more mindful of my thoughts because it’s such a cool thing to do. It doesn’t work like that. Just like learning to ski, ride a bike, learn math etc. you have to not only learn about it but practice it. You don’t learn to ride a bike without getting on the bike. And you won’t learn how to live mindfully and how to work with your mind if you don’t practice it.
If you’re curious about how you’re doing with mindfulness, check out this 20 questions quiz at Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life.
We must do the work and practice mindfulness if we want the benefits to be felt in our lives.
Once you start, you won’t want to let it slide because you will begin to feel the difference. You will get a taste of what mindfulness feels like and when that happens you’ll be hooked! The commitment won’t come because you won’t feel any of those challenging emotions anymore or have any disturbing thoughts because you will. The commitment will arise because you will feel fully alive and will become your mind’s master rather than its servant.