Detaching from Our Thoughts
In learning to observe our thoughts without
becoming absorbed in them, we have the opportunity to learn the
triggers behind much of our mental static and emotional reactions.
This is how we can begin the process of quieting our noisy minds and
increasing our enjoyment of life.
As in the prior exercises, start by being aware of yourself while
sitting quietly. As you sit anchored to your breath in the present
moment, noticing your bodily sensations and tension, also notice any
thoughts that come to mind. When you pay close attention, you will
notice that thoughts seem to bubble up and will then float by if
only you don't become absorbed in them. It is a fascinating
WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE?
I can remember the first time I fully became aware of my thoughts as happening separately and on their own from "me." I was a teenager in high school, sitting on a hard bench waiting for my turn to see the principal. Assuming that I was yet again in trouble for one thing or another, I was tense and nervous and completely absorbed in scenario after scenario in my mind of how this visit was going to play out. As I watched each scene in my mind, my emotions were triggered as if these things I was daydreaming about were actually taking place. I was sweating and my stomach was in knots when the school bell rang and shook me out of my fantasies. In that moment I realized what I had been doing. I saw very clearly in that instant how I was creating my own suffering by worrying about a situation that I had no knowledge of or control over.
It turned out that the principal only had questions about a sick day I had taken and needed confirmation from my mother. None of the daydreams that had so shaken me had any basis in reality and yet they had taken control of my life just the same. I was fascinated by the idea that something as insubstantial as my daydreams could have the same effect on me as something solid and real. This simple realization changed my life from that point on because my mental static began to have less control over my moment-to-moment emotional state.
We should remember to practice being aware of our thoughts whenever possible. In doing so, we can begin to get a sense of what it feels like to separate ourselves from our thoughts. We begin to see that we don't have to become absorbed in them in order to think. We can plan our day or do our work while still being fully aware of this moment. This is a particularly valuable change we can make, especially in instances when our emotions try to control our actions, such as in situations where we feel anxious, fearful, or angry. We do not need to feel swept away and lose sight of everything else that is happening around us.
In this exercise you will use your Focus Tool to bring yourself back
into the moment throughout your day, every day. Through being more
aware of yourself, you will find that you can be sharply aware of
everything around you. In noticing what you are thinking and how you
are carrying your tension, you have the option to lake a deep breath
and relax. This can make any of your daily activities much more
With practice, this exercise will only take a few seconds. Use this exercise frequently to bring yourself back into the moment. After completing the exercise, try to stay aware of yourself by staying anchored to your breath as you go about your day. Notice how much more in tune you can be to the life that is happening all around you when you are in tune with yourself.
This homework exercise is also an excellent tool for helping us keep a calm perspective under tough circumstances. Most of us have found that taking a deep breath to collect our thoughts before responding to a difficult situation can help us to keep things in perspective. This expands on that familiar phenomenon.
WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE?
I had an interesting experience several
years ago. 1 noticed how 1 would become frustrated when my daughter
would become noisy and distract me from my observation of the
present moment in meditation. I believed myself to be peaceful and
centered and then she would come noisily into the room and my
peaceful bubble would pop. I believed that this "disruption" made it
very difficult to relax into the present moment.
Accepting the true reality of any situation is the first step toward gaining the sense of peace that enables us to more fully enjoy our lives.
What Have We Learned?
Hopefully you have by now reached a certain level of comfort and understanding with the simple ideas and exercises in this section. You should now understand the importance of reconnecting with your body and your senses and may have gained some experience with this in the exercises. From there, you may have been able to observe your thoughts with a level of detachment you might not have experienced previously. This is very important because it lays the foundation needed to more deeply observe the behaviors and unconscious limitations that can severely limit your potential for happiness.
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