Whilst having a recent de-clutter, I came across a photo of my 15 year-old self. As I looked at the image, I pondered how we and things change over the years, but also that 29 years on, I sometimes still have some of the self-doubting thought patterns I had back then.
But today there is a subtle difference. As when the same patterns of thought come into play in the mind, they don’t hold the same charge as they used to. I don’t get so caught up in the stories of the mind or ruminate on them so much.
The trouble with thoughts is that they can become our only reality if all our energy is directed towards them.
If we are not paying attention to our direct experience in each moment, it’s easy to get locked into a thought pattern and so this becomes our reality. We can miss out on our life as it’s unfolding, caught up in a mind narrative of our life instead.
This can be great, if our thoughts are positive and kind and serve us well. But what if our thoughts aren’t serving us so well?
Through the formal and informal practices of mindfulness and yoga we are able to begin to see more clearly that these patterns of thought come and go and that thoughts are just ………………… well thoughts!
It’s only our attachment to thoughts that keeps us locked into a potentially limited way of seeing, being and doing.
When our awareness deepens we understand that our attachment to our thoughts and the thinking mind is concealing something more. Most of the time we are masking our natural being by the clouds of our thoughts, our wanting, our fears and our judgments.
Realising that thoughts are just thoughts allows us to see thoughts with lightness, humor, patience and kindness. And so beginning to notice and embody more of our whole being.
Our formal mindfulness and yoga practices help us to observe thoughts coming and going. And also begin to be with thoughts without getting attached to them or drawn into the continuing story of them.
Below are 3 practices we can do to notice thoughts as just thoughts and either letting them go to come to focus on the body, or breath (or both) in the present moment or being with thoughts with a gentle distance and kind awareness. :-
Becoming aware of your body in contact with the ground or its surface and any physical sensations here.
When you notice your mind wandering and thoughts coming in, gently acknowledging the thoughts, and then coming back to your body against the ground or its surface and again any physical sensations here with a kind awareness. Each time the mind wanders to thoughts, repeating by coming back to the body each time.
Becoming aware of your breath and how it gently moves in the lower abdomen, the rising and lower of the breath as you inhale and exhale. When you notice your thoughts, gently acknowledging the thoughts, and then coming back to your breath at the lower abdomen with a kind awareness. Each time the mind wanders to thoughts, repeating by coming back to the breath each time.
3. Acknowledging, accepting and watching thoughts come in,
stay, transform and pass (like clouds in the sky)
Noticing a thought or thought pattern, accepting and allowing it to be. Notice when thoughts come in and how they may stay a while in our awareness (like clouds in the sky of the mind) and notice as they may change and then pass.
If thoughts are particularly charged and feel not so easy to be with right now then come back to the body against the floor and or the breath at the abdomen to ground/calm.