Do you ever have the same thoughts going round and round in your head? And do they seem impossible to get away from? Really annoying you? Stopping you living in the present moment – and certainly seeming to interrupt times for meditation or just being?
We can ‘battle’ with our thoughts. It can feel like a full-on war zone.
A core attitude behind mindfulness – living in the present moment – is acceptance. By acceptance, I don’t mean resignation; I am not suggesting ‘if you thoughts keep churning round and round in your head, just live with them.’ Instead by acceptance, I mean acknowledging your thoughts. Other ways of saying it would be noting your thoughts, observing your thoughts, labelling your thoughts, or experiencing your thoughts. Accept that your mind has thoughts. This means accepting that you have thoughts instead of criticising yourself for having thoughts – not always an easy step.
So acknowledge the specific thoughts that you have. It can help to actually write them down as part of the experience of acknowledging them.
Now take another step, be curious about your thoughts. Examine them. You might ask of a specific thought, ‘When did I first start thinking this?’, ‘What triggered me thinking about it?’ ‘Is it an uncomfortable thought or a reassuring thought?’ I have found two questions particularly helpful in examining a specific thought: 1) ‘Is it true?’ 2) ‘Is it useful?’
We can adopt thoughts that are untrue. For example, we might think ‘I am a lousy person’ or some variant on that theme. Sometimes we need others to help us explore whether a thought is true or not – and as we explore we will find that we do indeed adopt some thoughts that are not true. Recognising a thought as untrue is key to changing your experience.
We can also allow thoughts to continue that are frankly useless to us. For example, we could choose to entertain a thought like ‘She/he doesn’t like me’. It may meet the truth test but does it actually get you anywhere? You may have tried to engage with that person and for reasons you don’t understand they remain cool towards you. It may be time to accept – to acknowledge – the situation. As you do this you will find your experience of that thought can change. You will begin the journey from a constant nagging thought of not being liked, to a place of acceptance where you can even set that thought to one side.
This is Mindful Monday on 14 May 2018.
Join Julie Hill and Sara Shailer tonight for an evening of mindfulness – on the theme of listening – at the Oasis Centre in Cheltenham. Please let us know you are coming so we can prepare the space for the right number of people.