The Power of Our Thoughts

Our thoughts and views are very powerful forces in how we feel and how we interact with others.  Honestly, I feel it is the foundation to whether or not we are able to feel happy or sad, depressed or angry.  How we perceive things and what we make of them equals how we feel.  Our history creates the template for dealing with current situations.  In psychology we look at how our childhood, relationships and life experiences may be influencing the present and the cognitive distortions we experience as a result.  Don Miguel Ruiz, who wrote the four agreements talks about the agreements we carry from our childhoods as a book of law.  Thich Nhat Hanh discusses the idea of “habit energy” and the sources of our suffering.

I feel it is very important for us to become observers of our thoughts and views.  Often it is hard to do this.  I think the best way to become this observer is to try to quiet your mind and see what pops up.  Just observe/listen to the thoughts in your head, your inner chatter.   You can write it down or just observe it.  Is what you are giving time to for good.  Thich Nhat Hahn talks about a garden and what seeds we water.   Are the seeds we are watering growing positive thoughts and feelings or taking us in direction of obsessive thought, negativity and decreasing our self-esteem?

Perception= Deception  This concept is a huge one for me.  Often I am considering some situation or relationship with someone and I see it in a certain way.  I ruminate over it, feel sick to my stomach, maybe even lose sleep over this; only to find out that what I thought to be true was actually false.   I liken it to looking up at the clouds.  If many people look at a cloud they may have many different interpretations of what they see in that cloud, based on what is on their mind, their day, their favorite animals, etc…  Same for all the rest of the interpretations we make.

“We may praise, blame, condemn or complain depending on our perception, but our perceptions are made of our afflictions cravings, anger, ignorance, possible wrong views we hold and any prejudices we have,” (Thich Nhat Hanh).

Some questions to ask yourself to help with clear, healthy thinking…

“Are you sure? – Have you checked it out and are absolutely sure it is true, based on fact?  Or are you making assumptions? Reality checking.

“If you are not sure, is this a pattern of perception and thought that is habitual and unhealthy? – If so, don’t judge, just know it and try to release it.  It is often important for us to understand where our patterns come from so we can have compassion for ourselves and to allow for us to accurately see whether or not is healthy today.

“What are you doing right now?” – Bring yourself to present moment by paying attention to your current environment and what you doing.  Mindfulness.

“Is there anything I can do about this right now?” -If not write down or schedule a way to take care of the situation and then try the present moment idea.

You can transform your thoughts by replacing them with a more positive ones and by not developing unhealthy thoughts.   For example if we have an initial thought that someone does not like us or is mad at us.  If we have nothing to support that thought, and we are “not sure”, we have a choice to check it out with that person, or if we are not in good space we can “develop” that thought into a billion other thoughts such as- Why is this person mad at me?  Maybe I should have done “x” differently, or I don’t like that person either, etc…  We can even ruminate about our interpretations to the point we drive ourselves crazy.  At any time we can choose not to water the developing thought through reality checking, positive thoughts or distractions, including trying to be in the present moment and utilizing mindfulness exercises.  You can state to yourself that you are losing present moment by continuing to give your time to something you cannot do anything about.  Often that helps to spark you to try to focus on something different.  Honestly, we often spend too much time ruminating on something that we have no control over or cannot do anything about in our present moment.  Let it go!  Move out of fear based thinking into faith.   For more on faith or fear read… https://serenityinspiredliving.com/2012/08/16/some-exploration-into-regaining-serenity/

I think it is important to observe ourselves and then water the seeds in our gardens that nurture and support us.  Before we can do that we have to know ourselves well- being present with all that is within us both good along with our old habits and ideas that no longer support or serve us.   When we become aware and take corrective actions we can create new pathways of thought that change how we perceive things and we can handle our thoughts in a more healthy way.

Remembering

I was out with my daughter one day, after struggling with work calls on my day off and feeling the pressures of work and the mommy guilt that goes with being a working mom, walking in the rain. It was in that very moment, when my daughter and I were walking hand in hand, our umbrellas up, my daughter singing a made up song as we splashed puddles, in that moment I remembered….

You may ask, “remembered what???” Well. for each person it is different, and words do not do it justice. I just remembered to “be”. Children do it all the time and many a guru write and talk about it. I have heard it a million times in a a million different ways… mindfulness, present moment, grounding, etc…

Honestly, I have struggled to bring myself back. My goal since then has to bring myself back to it as much as I can. It is what I have treasured in my mentors. That true sense of peace. I cannot even begin to imagine a life where that is the norm and perhaps that is part of the problem.

I think focusing on positive, present moment and what we want to bring into our lives is the most effective approach, and seems simple…. until it isn’t.

For example, recently I have been struggling with this idea in my professional life due to a colleague who, I see, as consistently working against me. It is true, on the surface. I found myself wanting to “right” the situation by pointing out the facts of the situations, she isn’t following through on her end and mistakes she has made, despite the fact that doing so would further exacerbate the situation. My ego was wounded and I wanted to heal it through pointing out the “truth”. Seemed somewhat justified as it would be the truth claiming my part in terms of issues. However, it would not do me or my company a service in the end. I have been asking the universe to rid me of this obsession, as I have been over and over it in my mind. What I would say, what she would say, what I would say to staff, etc…

Today I read the following, “being impeccable with your word is not using the word against yourself. If I see you in the street and I call you stupid, it appears that I’m using the word against you. But really I’m using my word against myself, because you’re going to hate me for this, and your hating me is not good for me. Therefore, if I get angry and with my word send all that emotional poison to you, I’m using the word against myself,” Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements.

Brought me back as I realized that I would, in essence, be hurting myself by stating anything that was pointed or hateful. So true. The power of her statements melted as I read that. She herself must be suffering, and in the end her statements will hurt herself, more than me or anyone else. Another lesson for me in looking at the “essence” of a situation instead of surface content.

Handling Difficult Emotions

Thich Nhat Hanh likened emotions to a storm.  A storm comes, stays for some time and then it goes.  An emotion, too, comes, stays for awhile and then it goes.

When experiencing difficult emotions, Thich Nhat Hanh writes that your head is like the top of a tree in a storm.  It is not suggested you stay there.  Instead, bring your attention to the trunk of the tree where there is stability, your belly and your breathing for ten or fifteen minutes.  (Be Free Where You Are, Thich Nhat Hanh)

I used to be very skeptical of breathing exercises, however I found that paying attention to my breath or just paying attention to my surroundings- what I see or hear, or just focusing on drinking a glass of water or tea can truly help.  It can be difficult due to our old habits and patterns that direct us to do what we have always done.

I decided to test this out for one day, trying to be aware of when difficult emotions were present and taking a ten minute break by focusing on my breathing and my surroundings.  It was difficult to give it a full ten minutes, and to be honest, in the beginning I could not, but even a few minutes made a difference.  After one day I was amazed at how my emotions shifted.  I decided to keep at it, and over time my patterns and habits have shifted.  I still struggle at times, but I am truly grateful for this tool.

For those that despise breathing exercises or just can’t focus on breathing, the five senses mindfulness exercise might be for you.  It is simply stopping and focusing on your five senses one at a time.  This too can make a huge difference if you enter it in a couple times a day.