“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.” -Buddha
“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” -Mahatma Gandhi
“Change your thoughts, and you change your world.” -Norman Vincent Peale
To begin to live the life we’ve always dreamed of, we must first change our thinking. If there’s anything about your life that you’re not happy with, good news! All it takes is a shift in your thoughts to begin to change it. So many of us, however, believe that if we just keep doing what we’re doing, eventually something will change and life will just “get better” because we want it to.
“Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” -Albert Einstein
Or, to paraphrase another quote, when we think what we’ve always thought, we’ll get what we’ve always got.
Our minds run rampant with thoughts, and until we begin the process of controlling our thinking, we're left at their mercy. The first step in controlling our thoughts is to notice what we're thinking. Until we can step aside and be the observer of our thoughts instead of actively caught up in thinking them, we can't begin to control them.
Our minds like to operate in ‘stealth mode' making us forget that there is a thinker behind the thoughts, a thinker who can choose which thoughts to think!
1. Pay attention to every thought and feeling that doesn't feel good. For me, in the beginning, this was a lot of thoughts. I lived in a lot of mental pain, but I was determined to turn it around. Don’t stress about how long this will take or how many thoughts don’t feel good, just begin slowly and notice the ones that make you feel uncomfortable, less-than, defeated, angry, jealous, fearful, etc.
Note: Simply noticing the thoughts is a great leap on the road to Nirvana, since you’re separating yourself from them in a powerful way.
2. Don't judge your thoughts. Our thoughts are not personal, they’re merely following the patterns of what we’ve allowed ourselves to think before. Having bad thoughts doesn't make us bad people. We are not “more inclined” to have bad thoughts than anyone else. We merely have patterns of allowing the thoughts or rejecting them. The more we allow them, the more those negative thoughts will come to us. The more often we think positive thoughts, the more positive thoughts will come, and the less frequent negative ones will be able to “make purchase” and settle in. This is a process, and we must consciously choose to think better thoughts before better thoughts will come to us- but don’t judge. Just notice.
“If thoughts or ideas are not really ‘mine, then whence do they arise and who is their author? Actually, they don't have a ‘who' of origin at all but instead merely arise from a ‘what'. The content of calibratable field of consciousness is like a thought bank regimented by a specific energy field of a level of the collective consciousness of mankind. Similar thoughts, concepts, and ideas congregate at various levels and are orchestrated under the influence of the attention of the central ‘attractor field' that, like gravity, attracts ideas of similar gravity or density.” -David Hawkins PhD
3. Practice self-compassion. Merely observing a negative thought is an incredible advancement in consciousness. If you then berate yourself for thinking it, or being stuck in a negative thought pattern, you're taking yourself back into the spiral of negativity.
Honor yourself for doing this work. Honor yourself for being brave enough to watch your negative thoughts. Honor yourself for beginning to change what you’re thinking and cultivate positivity. Honor yourself for becoming the person you want to be, one thought at a time!
4. Ask yourself, “Is this thought necessary? What can I think that’s better?” I love asking these questions because they immediately stop my negative thoughts in their tracks. I go from “Yikes, this is so bad, I wonder what I’m going to do about this?” to “Wow, what can I love about this situation? What’s the best possible thing that can come from this?” which is way more fun.
Anytime I’m tempted to think a negative thought, I a) notice that it doesn’t feel good, b) honor myself for catching it, and c) ask myself, “What can I think about that I love? What can I think about that makes me feel good? Those negative thoughts no longer have a place- the “thinker behind the thoughts” is too occupied creating the life she loves and wants to pay attention to those negative thoughts that hold her back.
“All truly wise thoughts have been thoughts already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.” -Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
“Let the wise guard their thoughts, which are difficult to perceive, extremely subtle, and wander at will. Thought which is well guarded is the bearer of happiness.” -Buddha
In my next post, I’ll talk about turning around the old thoughts and beliefs that seem to come back again and again, and have a lot of emotion attached to them.
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