Hold Your Thoughts Lightly - Simply Mindful

Hold Your Thoughts Lightly

Hold Thoughts Lightly

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

We are not our thoughts. When I first heard the words, it was a profound statement that unhooked me from the busyness of my crazy-making mind. I associated my weird thoughts with my identity, so imagine what a relief it was to have this shift in perspective. I still have bizarre, sometimes crazy-making thoughts, but I don’t closely identify with them anymore (not as often, at least). According to Jack Kornfield, most of our mental suffering comes from how tightly we hold our beliefs, thoughts, and perspectives. Studies have shown that thoughts and emotions alone can influence the activity of our immune system cells. They’re powerful! Thoughts and images can indicate what is going on in your mind. Hence, as we become familiar with our top habitual, automatic, unhelpful thinking patterns, we can start to recognize the processes that may lead us into downward spirals. Mindfulness practice is like a pin to a balloon. Once it’s pricked (with our attention), the thought starts to disappear or lessen its control.

When we are under a lot of stress, we can limit our focus and lose sight of what’s most important to us – focusing entirely on the stressful event. Eventually, we realize that thoughts are not facts, we are not our thoughts, and the stories we conjure may not even be true. So here is a helpful practice to try when your thoughts feel like they are off into a spiral:

A Practice

*Courtesy of the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center

1.Connect with your breath and body.

When you notice you are lost in thought, you can take a breath and become aware of your body, allowing the thoughts to be. Sometimes the simple act of returning our attention to ourselves (or our breath) is enough.

2.Notice, label, and feel.

Label the thought to acknowledge it (“worried thought,” “judging,” “fretting,” etc.). If possible, feel the event in your body (tightening in the stomach, clenching of the jaw, tense shoulders, etc.)

3. Helpful Analogies to lessen the power of a thought.

Example: Our mind is like the sky, and thoughts are like the clouds passing by.
Example: Prick the thought balloon with the pin of mindfulness.

4. Count judgments

This gives you the distance necessary in getting caught up in judging by helping to identify them and let go.

A way to drop out of your story is to experiment with incorporating a Loving Kindness practice using the following phrases:

  • May I/you accept myself/yourself just as I am/you are.
  • May I/you have peace and well-being.
  • May I/you be healthy and strong.
  • May my/your life unfold with ease.

It is helpful to send loving-kindness to yourself to work with issues of self-judgment and self-criticism. Feel free to send it to others, but don’t forget to do it yourself. If you don’t feel loving kindness, you have some options. First, it’s normal to try this practice and feel all sorts of things, including sadness, anger, fear, numbness, or nothing.

Here are some options:

  • If you feel nothing, keep saying the phrases, and don’t worry about having a specific experience. Notice what happens. Know you are planting seeds.
  • If there is one person to whom you can send it reasonably easily, stick with that for some time until you feel ready to try again.

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