“People are not their thoughts. They think they are and it brings them all kinds of sadness.”
Learn how to stop your constant thoughts that are jamming you up all day and sabotaging your meditation sessions in this 3 minute video when you do the 33 second exercise with Oprah…
If you have ever meditated and tried to quiet your mind, you know how challenging it can be. Despite your best efforts, the “thought faucet” remains open and thoughts kept pouring out… interesting or important ones that you had to interact with.
But, observing your mind during meditation is the best way to get to know yourself. If you can non-judgmentally listen to the thoughts that your mind generates, you can quickly become aware of self-defeating patterns.
The problem with the thinking mind is that the off switch is well hidden (yes, there are ways to turn off your thoughts, but that’s another article!). The thinking mind loves to talk. LOVES. It’s what happens anytime you are not fully engaged in what you’re doing: you’re bored at work and thinking about your girlfriend… you’re talking with someone but you have tuned them out and you’re thinking about how the heck you’re going to end this conversation without coming across as a rude jerk… you’re reading a textbook and your mind is a million miles away… and boy does it love to chatter when you’re awake in the middle of the night!
The thinking mind is very agile, jumping from one topic to another. It is also extremely tenacious, clinging to a thought loop as if it were the most important thing in the world.
To become more of an observer who actually has control over the actions that result from thoughts, you have to separate the two minds. Instead of saying, “I am sad,” say, “I feel sadness.” Instead of “I am scared,” say, “I feel afraid.” Do you see the difference? If you say “I am” something, you embody it and you are basically under the control of your thinking mind. You act according to what you are – sad, afraid, etc.
But… if you take the role of observer and use “I feel sad” or “I feel afraid” – when you phrase it this way, you are experiencing sadness or fear, but you are not controlled by it because you know that it’s just a feeling, and it will pass. Emotions are not a choice – you just have them; but if you (experience) them instead of being them, you are no longer controlled by them.
This is particularly helpful when you’re having negative thoughts and feelings. You have these temporary experiences (you are observing yourself having them) and you become free to act in spite of them.
As you might imagine, this takes a bit of practice because it’s very easy to get involved in thoughts as they come into your awareness and since thoughts generate emotions, you can be easily pulled into a foul mood very quickly.
However, there is one very simple – and I must say, entertaining – method you can use to slow the rate at which your mind generates thoughts, so you can learn to be the observer.
Simply ask, “What do you want to talk about now?”
The fascinating thing is, there will be a moment or several of silence, as your mind scrambles to come up with something – anything – to chatter about! The first time I did this exercise, my mind came up with an image of myself at a seaside resort… as a CHILD – something I had not thought about in many, many years! But, since there is only the one thought (instead of wondering where one thought ends and another begins) it’s easier to observe.
Try that with feelings, too, to get comfortable with the fact that you are having feelings and they are as temporary as your thoughts (a single opposing thought can completely change the direction of your feelings). The question here is, “What am I feeling now?”
As you practice this, you will become more attuned to being the observer, who is removed from the experience of thinking/feeling – and you will find that your responses to life become much more measured and positive. You’ll also experience deeper meditation sessions that are not overcome with thoughts. The thoughts are more background noise after realizing you are the observer not your thoughts.