A man is but the product of his thoughts – what he thinks, he becomes. Mahatma Gandhi
I am nearing the completion of my Mindfulness Training and this week has been about thoughts and the power they hold over us. I have been learning that thoughts are only mental events- they are not facts, and we are not our thoughts.
We can easily get into old thought patterns which are not helpful such as ‘What is the point? ”This is a complete waste of time’ and so on- but there may be a way of changing our thought patterns and looking at a situation in a different, more positive way, which can prevent us from feeling down or stressed. As Jon Kabat Zinn said, “It is remarkable how liberating it feels to be able to see that your thoughts are just thoughts and that they are not ‘you’ or ‘reality’.”
In the run up to the holiday season we can get into the mind set of busy-ness thinking we have got to rush around doing things -which can send us into a spiral of panic – but actually it is only a thought and we don’t have to go along with it.
You can view a situation in many different ways. To give an example- our daughter’s boyfriend, who is very nice, sometimes parks his car in a place which makes it awkward to reverse my car out of the drive. It’s tempting to think that either he is doing it deliberately or he’s showing lack of respect and couldn’t care less, but when I mentioned it to my daughter she said, ‘Oh he’s got a lot on his mind and keeps forgetting.’
Another example is that sometimes people ring me asking if they can try out yoga and attend a particular class- so I answer their questions about the class, give them the information they need, check there’s a place for them and we agree a date -and then they don’t show up, which prevents someone else taking the place.
One interpretation could be that these people are being thoughtless and discourteous or perhaps that,after speaking to me, they didn’t like the sound of the class; however another way of looking at it is that something important has happened that prevented them from attending, or they completely forgot about it, or they turned up at the wrong venue, or they were feeling depressed or anxious and couldn’t bring themselves to come….. There are lots of ways of interpreting a situation and it’s empowering once we realise that our thoughts are only thoughts.
One meditation technique is to sit quietly watching your thoughts drift in and out of your mind-sometimes they stay a little while, sometimes they merge with another thought, but there is no need to engage with them. It is a bit like standing on a platform watching the trains go by-there’s no need to get on board!