People often say to me how they have such trouble with their minds, how their thoughts run away with them and they end up in places mentally where they don’t want to be. If only they could manage their thoughts, they say. You can have so many thoughts on your mind that the mind can become the source of your greatest torment, but it can also be the place of your greatest bliss. You can do something about it.
We get so caught up with our worries, problems and concerns that we don’t realise what’s really going on. Surely, we think, I need to focus on dealing with this problem. So people lie awake at night churning through the issue. It might be a stream of thoughts, and then it might be, say, a more generalised feeling, like anxiety about might happen or resentment about what has or hasn’t happened. They seem so important and real that we believe we can’t possibly let go of them. To not focus on them would feel somehow unsatisfactory. Which can point to an underlying tendency to treat life’s challenges in a particular way. For example we may have a tendency to catastrophise or see the worst in a situation. Or we may tend to blame others and find fault with them, and see them as the cause of our issues. Both these are patterns that can be challenged in themselves and dealt with.
To deal with the constant thinking however, often it is when you decide to step back from the problem and manage the process that things can start to be different, a “content to process shift”. Thus when you adopt a mindfulness approach, being aware of the thoughts you are having rather than caught up in thinking them, you can use the power of “metacognition”, seeing what’s going on in your mind. You can train yourself to observe or “witness” them: “Ah, I’m having that thought again.” “There I go with that one again.” Then, choose not to blame yourself, but rather accept. It’s what we do. It happens. Breathe, and breathe again, consciously, breathe in peace and calm, and breathe away thoughts and feelings, letting them go on the out-breath. And simply focus instead on breathing.
Over time you can choose to practice like this, and learn more about the practice of mindfulness, of witnessing your thoughts and letting them go, and learn to embrace the inner stillness that lies behind thoughts. For, when you simply sit with awareness of breath, you can find a growing calmness in your state of being. You can train yourself to have “no though” and be present with your stillness.
That way lies peace.
We seek peace in the world “out there” and think that when we’ve fixed our problems “out there” we’ll have peace. Yet real peace lies within.