(Click Play to have us read this lesson to you)
One of our greatest challenges we face today is getting out of our mind. We have been taught and praised to think. We have been told what to think, how to think and to keep thinking. Thinking alone is not enough to bring us to happiness or peace. Our biology predisposes us with thousands of preferences and our psychology tells us what and how to think. The commentary of our mind constantly interrupts the moment. There is a good chance that your mind is talking to you right now as you read or listen to this lesson. The voices in our heads sometimes become, an obnoxious outspoken guest that demands all our attention.
There is a place for thinking, it’s a valuable resource for us to utilize our experiences and training. It is also equally important for us to be able to, not think. If you feel that you no longer have control over your mind and that it’s running your life, then this lesson is for you. In this three-part lesson, we will explore the difference between our thoughts and thinking, how not to be affected by our thoughts and the nature of our mind. We will provide you with some simple tools, so you can learn how to set your mind down.
Part One: Thoughts and Thinking
Thoughts and thinking are two completely different things. Thoughts come into your mind. You have no control what your thoughts are going to be. You also don’t know how frequent you will have certain thoughts nor do you have any control over the quality of your thoughts. The easiest way to illustrate this is to ask, what is your next thought going to be? You can’t say what your next thought is going to be. You can decide in any given moment what you’re going to think about, you can even decide how long you will think about any given topic, but again you have no control what thoughts are going to come to you.
The nature of our thoughts, is that they may not be true real or even ours. There can be thoughts that come into your mind that are someone else’s words that you have been replaying in your mind for years. The thoughts that you’re having may be lies you have told yourself or lies someone has told you. Very little of your thoughts are even worth giving your attention to, because we are trained to be Olympic thinkers we tend to grab onto every thought that comes into our mind.
In the lesson Growing Strong we talked a bit about the repetitive nature of our thoughts.
“The nature of our mind is that we have thousands of thoughts a day and we will experience sixty to eighty percent of the same thoughts day in day out.”
Here is a staggering fact, we have 50 000 to 100 000 thoughts a day and 60% – 80% we had yesterday! Our minds are repetitive and anything we do in repetition can become like an addiction. Addiction is usually characterized by repetitive drug usage, but another way to look at addiction is to see it as a habit, that we no longer have control over. Over thinking involves both points. Every thought that we grab onto and think about creates a feeling which then creates a chemical process in our body. Over time our bodies start to become dependent on the chemicals that flood our bodies during specific thinking patterns. We also develop behaviors that accompany the ideas we keep in our heads.
Here is a video by Dr. Joe Dispenza that explains this topic
A good way to characterize this is how we feel after we break up with a partner. Even if we are the ones who have called of the relationship it can still be a difficult experience to go through. There is generally an awkward feeling that comes over us the first time we wake up alone. The easiest ways to describe this feeling, its almost like we feel uncomfortable in our skin. This is the body craving the chemicals the we would experience if everything stayed the same. Stopping your thoughts is impossible but what is possible is to change your relationship to the thoughts that you are having in your mind. When a thought arises, just let it be, each time you do this, you slowly change your relationship with that thought, causing you to rewire your brain. Thinking is the voice in your head that is talking to the thoughts that drop into your mind. We sometimes think that, the voice that is talking back to the thoughts in our head is us but the truth is that the voice in you head is not you. Thinking happens by choice and can be stopped anytime we choose.
Part Two: Learning Not to be
Affected by our Thoughts
Often people will say “I can’t stop thinking” the truth is you will not stop thinking, that is a choice you’re making. Just like walking, sitting, standing, is a choice so is thinking. When you allow your brain to control your life, it’s a complete and utter misuse of our brains. You were given a brain to use but now its using you. Think of it this way if you bought a car and every time you got in it, the car decided where you were going to go, that car would be of no use to you. The same goes for our brain, we can choose where we want it to take us.
Your mind is the screen that your thoughts are projected on. When your relationship with your thoughts is healthy, we don’t get lost in the screen, the thoughts come and go. When you lose a healthy balance with your thoughts, there is a tendency to grab a hold of every thought that comes into your mind. Every thought sticks to you like glue. After days, weeks and even years of grabbing your thoughts you no longer see the thoughts in your head as something separate. The line gets blurred where you end and your thoughts begin. Eventually, you think that you are your thoughts. The voice in your head is not you and the constant stream of thoughts are not you either. When you label the thoughts in your head as you, the possibility of letting your thoughts go becomes less likely. By removing the label that the thoughts in your head are you; you then create distance between you and the thoughts. From this place Its much easier to let the thoughts go because its not you, its something that flows to and through you.
One way to practice not letting our thoughts affect us is to pretend that your mind is a movie screen. When you go to the movies they project the show onto the screen. Much like the movies, your thoughts are projected onto your mind. After the lights come on at the movie theater the screen is not affected by the movie. The screen is not shot up from a cops and robber scene nor is the screen full of lust from a love story. Its completely unaffected by what was projected onto it. You can do this this your mind. Don’t allow what is being projected onto your mind affect you.
Part Three: The Nature of the Mind
The mind often tends to think in a progressive, linear fashion. It likes order and for things to unfold in our lives in this manner. Linear thinking is the belief that everything is happening in a straight line and unfolding in a progressive manner, Example A leads to B and B leads to C and so on. Life happens more like this, A to R to H to Q and so on. Often the mind will reorganize things so they fit into a linear progression so it can make sense of things.
The mind has a strong propensity to try to predict and judge everything that is happening in the moment. It then projects its assumptions and judgments and thinks it knows what’s going to happen next. When you relieve the mind of this duty, you slow down the thinking in your head. By not judging and predetermining outcomes before they arise, you allow yourself to see what is. This helps you relax into the experience unfolding before you. It’s a good practice to be optimistic and real with what’s happening during your day, by doing so you become less likely to fall prey to expectation. Life rarely produces what you expect.
The nature of the mind is to keep having thoughts and thinking about them, without ever stopping. The minds insatiable appetite for thinking can never be satisfied. The only way to calm and pacify the mind, is to do the unthinkable… STOP THINKING! When you allow your thoughts to pass without giving them your attention you begin to change your relationship with your mind. You may always have thousands of thoughts a day but with practice you can learn to not think about every thought that comes to you. This can be a very liberating experience.
Your mind can hold things past their expiry date. Much like milk expires when left in the fridge too long, so do some of the thoughts you keep. Mental house cleaning keeps you from becoming stuck in the past and out of context with life. Your mind can be conditioned to be healthy or unhealthy. If you tell yourself subtle lies, overtime you will start to believe these lies as, your truth. Take some time to review some of your beliefs that may not be true. Remember that just because you think that something is a certain way, doesn’t make it so. You can stop Thinking.
(Click Play to have us read the homework to you)
- Watch your mind. Notice how your mind has a commentary on everything you see. Spend a day or two just Watching your mind. Look at what you think about. Chart the reoccurring thoughts in your mind.
- When you notice that you are talking to yourself, stop and gently return to watching your mind. (It’s ok if this is hard to do. It’s ok if you find yourself struggling with this homework. Please be kind, gentle and patient with yourself.)
- Watch for thoughts that trigger you to feel your emotions arise. During these moments remember this mind is a movie and you don’t have to be affected by the thoughts in your head.
- Stop your mind from creating predetermined outcomes.
- Question your mind. Are your thoughts true to the world or just your mind?
This lesson was written by Ned Burwell