Dear Why Team member,
I hope this week’s message finds you well, looking forward to Summer and taking some time to think about what you think about.
This week we consider the all important discipline of observing our thoughts - and the technique of meditation to develop the skill.
The past six months has brought another challenging growing transition into my life - and the discipline of meditation helped me more than any other activity. Why? Because it is so very helpful to separate identity from thoughts.
Think for a moment how crazy it is to think that we are our thoughts?
For example, consider thoughts like these: “I am not good enough! I am helpless! I am a failure!” Are we truly not good enough, or failures just because we think the thought?!
A painful emotion for example can conjure up old thoughts from childhood, but having childhood thoughts do not make us children any more than thinking of flying makes us a bird.
From time to time everyone has hurtful thoughts, or more accurately we find ourselves thinking thoughts that hurt. We may have insufficiencies, we may have failed but we are surely not failures. It is particularly awakening and refreshing to notice that no matter how hurtful a thought, that thought does not and can not stay present in our minds 24/7.
While a thought may be slaying you in the current moment, remember it came to pass, not to stay; before long that thought will move on.
“We suffer far more in imagination than we do in reality” – Seneca
Remember that painful breakup with a significant other many, many years ago? Does it still hurt? Do you even think about that person anymore?
I suppose you can re-visit those old feelings by thinking those old thoughts, but notice the need for the old thoughts to generate the old feeling.
How about a quick meditation right now? Of course provided your current environment is conducive to this exercise; close your eyes and focus on your breath, putting all your attention on your breath coming in and out. Now, notice that no matter how hard you try to concentrate on your breath, your mind has ideas of its own.
Notice the thoughts that rise.
I have a good friend who applies a simple mantra during meditation as he notices the rising thoughts:
RISE - BE - GO
He notices the rising thought, allows it to be and then let’s it go.
Now, that sounds easier than it is.
For most of us, we hop on the new thought and are off on a ride to God knows where before we even notice a thought has taken us for a ride - interrupting our intention to stay focused on our breath. It’s so common, that most people say they can’t meditate; well, if you believe meditation is clearing your mind completely of thought, almost no one, except those who have practiced meditation for many years, can stop the mind from thinking; and the key here is practice. What I find very enjoyable is just the noticing of thoughts and how they come and go. I notice how thoughts stand on their own, pushing out other thoughts; one minute I hear the traffic and then a few minutes later I notice how new thoughts ended the thought of traffic.
Does the traffic no longer exist?
You could certainly say in that moment traffic stopped being a part of my life experience.
While we can certainly have feelings and emotions with no awareness of the thoughts behind them, so many feelings are attached to specific thoughts, thoughts we can notice, let them be and learn to let them go. What I have found on this journey is the importance of conditioning the mind to think more optimal thoughts as opposed to limiting thoughts.
The Why Team was created as an ongoing effort to elevate the quality of our thoughts and thus the quality of our life experience which affects the quality of impact we have on others.
Next week we will dive more into the importance of mental conditioning, but for now, if you don’t already meditate, consider carving out just a few minutes every morning to start intentionally, or more intentionally, observing your thoughts.
Download the app HEADSPACE; it is an outstanding resource I have leveraged for many years. The guidance and videos help awaken and develop the very important human skill of metacognition:
thinking about what you think about.
When we awaken to how thoughts think us more than we think them - we begin to awaken all the more to the important responsibility of attending to the source of our thoughts.
This week consider noticing all the more what your mind is thinking - and ask yourself this powerful question:
are you the thoughts or the one who notices them?
Make it a great week!