“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” -Buddha
Thoughts I've been attached to:
“I had an unfair childhood”
“My ex hurt me”
“I should've had a different experience that day”
“My best friend shouldn't have died. She was so young.”
“It's unfair for X to treat me this way.”
I can notice my attachment to these thoughts because I've continually told these stories. Even recently, I've told the story of my childhood, and the hardships I perceived. I've told the story of difficult situations with my exes. I've even told stories of tiny things that I felt shouldn't have happened- little perceived injustices and unfairness.
Thanks to an incredible path of love and learning, I've recently realized: the only way these thoughts can continue to be true is through continually thinking them.
None of these thoughts are true. What's worse- when I think about them today, it brings the past (as I perceive it) firmly into the present.
At first I wanted to hang on to “my perception” and “my stories”. After all, who am I without my stories?
Enlightened. Loving. Present.
Once I realized that all my pain, every ounce of pain I feel, is simply a thought I'm carrying into the present, my ego decided to flare up and see if it could get a little more pain out of me.
“You mean I wasted all that time being angry?”
“You mean all the grieving I went through was for nothing?”
“Those are very real emotions you're attacking! You are attacking what's real! It's real because I can feel it!”
“Whoever is telling you this is lying to you. Get smart and call this person a quack!”
Realizing this was the ego helped me transcend those untrue thoughts, too.
Hanging on to negative thoughts from the past is a waste of time. Yet we're very, very good at it. We're so good at it we write books about it. We watch TV shows that perpetuate these histories. We believe that if we don't study the past we're doomed to repeat it! (Quite the opposite! The more time and attention you give to the past, the more you're bringing it into the present and creating it in the future.)
“Your point of power is always in the present moment because you can ONLY take action in the present moment” Jon Kabat-Zin (thanks to Mayra for introducing me to Kabat-Zin)
So how do we stop thinking all those thoughts?
“There is nothing so disobedient as an undisciplined mind, and there is nothing so obedient as a disciplined mind.” -Buddha
At first, the idea of disciplining my mind seemed overwhelming to me. We have so many thoughts! And when I start to pay attention, so many of them are negative repeats from the past.
“Think of love as if it is water in a glass, and the glass is your body. When a glass has only a little water in it, it is empty of water. You can’t change the water level in the glass by waging war on the emptiness and trying to rip out the emptiness. The emptiness goes by filling the glass with water. When you have bad feelings, you are empty of love, and so when you put love into yourself, the bad feelings are gone.” -Rhonda Byrne, The Power
The important thing to remember is not to attack or wage war against the negative thoughts. When a thought that has been a habit for you pops up, you can simply replace it with something else. After a time, those thoughts won't come up for you, because they never get anywhere. You won't reinforce them, feed them, send them any energy whatsoever.
This, for me, has made the act of disciplining my mind easy and fun. Instead of worrying and getting frustrated when I have a bad thought, I immediately think of the best thing I can, instead. When the thought “X should not have done that to me” pops up, I think: what am I grateful for right now? What can I love right now? What is in this present moment? What is here, now? Is that memory here? I don't see it. I see a room, a desk…
Another way to disarm those thoughts if you're really feeling negative about them, is to list all the reasons why you're grateful for that thing, person, or event. This is truly life-changing, and after you do it thoroughly, the thought “X shouldn't have happened” or “X hurt me” won't even make sense! When I did a gratitude list on all the things about my childhood I'm grateful for, and really explored this and meant it, I was overflowing with love and gratitude for the life I've lived up until now. It changed the way I looked at the people in my life, and it changed the way I framed the events that happened to me. Now I know that my childhood was actually Advanced Consciousness Training and I am so much better and stronger for it.
Steps to Discipline Your Thoughts:
1. Consciously choose love instead of those painful thoughts- without resisting the painful thoughts. If you're too busy thinking about what you love right now, you won't have any place in your mind for the negative stuff you used to think about.
2. Be radically grateful for what you perceived to be negative things. Do a hundred-item gratitude list (seriously) for every person, thing or situation that you feel hurt you. Once you perceive it as something that infinitely helped you versus hurt you, it loses it's power to hurt you in the present.