Before I started meditating years ago, I had no idea I could disentangle myself from my busy mind.
It's really incredible how so many of our thoughts are about future events that haven't happened or past events that have. We know from science and research, that two thirds of the time, our thought content or thinking is either negative or neutral. i.e.: we're worrying about the future or unsatisfied with something that happened in our past. And we get stuck in this thinking mode, and lost in thought for about half the time.
Just think about that for a moment. Does that sound like a healthy place?
Now that I've distracted you into thinking, I hope you don't mind bringing your attention back to the present and this post.
Our constant thinking and wandering mind, often leaves us feeling completely exhausted, stressed, and relieved to get to the end of each day. You know that feeling? When your inner voice says: "Thank god it's almost the weekend, so I can forget about my challenging week for a while." The trouble is, it's our constant thinking which pulls our attention in a thousand different directions, in very subtle ways, that we're very rarely aware of. This is what we call continuous stress.
When you combine this with the thousands of messages we're exposed to every day (approximately 5,000 now) through social media, TV and advertising alone, it's no wonder that attention is becoming one of the most valuable resources in our hyper-connected world.
If you sit just for a moment and bring intentional awareness to your thoughts, you may discover how much of your thinking entails planning or worrying. What you might also discover is that you're actually more than your thoughts and you don't need to be dominated by them.
I'm about to head out on an 8 day completely silent retreat as part of my on going professional training and as I sit writing this blog I'm aware of a lot of thoughts going through mind like:
"This is one of the last times I'll be able to communicate with anyone for a while. Will I be able to resist using my devices and communicating with the outside world? Then I started thinking about how silent retreats are not necessarily blissful escapes, you need good mental and physical stamina to sit for hours on end in complete silence and stillness."
I'm holding these thoughts in my awareness right now, observing them with some curiosity and openness, noticing when they arise and when they pass and gently bringing my attention back to this blog, without judging myself that I was distracted by these thoughts.
You can see, that our thoughts want to rise continually because that's just what they do. But there's no need to get drawn into them when they arise and go with them where they want to go... otherwise we're always following every thought and that's what causes stress. Thoughts can create unnecessary problems and can very often obscure what's happening in our lives right now.
In the same way we observe the outer world, we can observe our thoughts, feelings and emotions and we don't have to follow them. We simply watch the thought and let it go. It's as if you were sitting on a park bench and notice a jogger running by or a dog walker passing you. You don't have to chase after them.
Alternatively we can intentionally choose to follow our thoughts and see where they go. Ultimately, it's about cultivating a different relationship with our thoughts.
I invite you today to experiment with your thoughts a little. Try following some and observing others. When you notice you are thinking and having thoughts, notice how you feel in your body. Find out for yourself which thoughts you choose to follow and which thoughts you intentionally choose to let go of.
Allowing yourself to be wherever you are.