Mindfulness: How To Observe Your Thoughts and Grow
Updated: Aug 26, 2019
It’s always fascinated me how some ancient pearls of wisdom carry with them absolutely no expiration date. James Allen penned that quote in his book “As a Man Thinketh” many moons ago, and yet somehow that statement remains as true today as it was then.
It is no secret that thoughts “maketh” a man. You are the product of your thoughts because your thoughts lead to your words which lead to your actions which lead to your habits, then your character and ultimately your destiny.
If our thoughts are indeed that powerful, then shouldn’t we be more careful about what we’re thinking about? I once heard a famous speaker and author, say that we should “think about what we’re thinking about.”
Observing your thoughts is a skill worth developing, but how exactly does one go about doing that? Where is the playbook on how to observe your thoughts?
I’m not sure where the book is, but I may have a few insights on the whole matter:
In a hustle and bustle world “be still” is the new f-bomb. I get it, we’re all busy, but consider these still moments as investments. Understand that your mind never stops working. Have you ever found yourself “lost in thought”? You may find that you completely zoned out and went off to a whole other world.
That’s the beauty of our mind-
It’s the core of us but it can also be independent of us.
When we practise being still, our observing mind is able to...well, observe, our thinking mind. Yes...we all have two minds.
If you can muster up the strength, I dare you right now to take a deep cleansing breath.-
Now I want you to think of the last time you brushed your teeth. I want you to imagine that while you were brushing your teeth, an albino lion walked past you into the other room and started putting on makeup.
Even if you weren’t able to conjure up the image (though I hope you were because it’s hilarious), did you feel yourself thinking about it? Think about it again, this time, I want you to take note of everything you’re doing while thinking about it.
Did you close your eyes? Did you look up in the ceiling? Did you gaze to one side? Whatever you did, were you able to observe yourself thinking about it?
That’s how the mind works. The problem is, we’re not always in the drivers’ seat and sometimes some sabotaging thoughts hop on board and start calling the shots. The internal dialogue may lead us to feelings of fear, self-loathing, anxiety, anger, and procrastination. An even bigger problem is, a lot of the time when this starts to happen, we accept it as being true and thus it continues.
1. Shut them down-
Don’t believe all your thoughts. The only way to deal with that is to shut them down. You don’t have to believe everything that your mind produces. The misunderstanding is that if it’s coming out of your mind then it must be true. Nope. It ain’t so.
What are your automatic responses to things that don’t go right? Do you become a solution seeker, or do you start complaining about all the many different ways that the situation sucks? The latter only results in more of the same. If you direct your brilliant mind-energy to being negative, complacent, critical or worried, then those are the only thoughts you’ll have. But, if you decide that you want to think differently, you want to steer your mind in a different direction, then you can.
3. Coach the little league of your mind
This may feel like a lot of work and that’s because it is. It’s like chasing preschoolers around who don’t want to put pants on. There will be days when you realize that your thoughts are “running away” with you and so you’ll have to lace up your track shoes and chase after them. Coach your thoughts to go in the direction that you want them to go.
Acknowledge the negative thoughts/feelings for what they are and then change their direction. When you do, celebrate yourself!
“I’m so proud of you for choosing to think like that.”
Affirm your good thoughts and keep them going.
I’m not here to tell you that there is a way to eliminate negative thoughts because there isn’t. What you can do is limit their effects and reduce their frequency. This requires a deliberate change of input, quiet moments of self-observation and habitual chasing. It is like James Allen said, your mind will bring forth fruit whether you choose to do so or not. You get to choose the fruit, you get to cultivate your garden...do so.
“Be mindful. Be grateful. Be positive. Be true. Be kind.” -Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart