June 10, 2013
One of the drawbacks, if there are any, in learning to better manage one’s thoughts and feelings, is that you don’t find as many opportunities to use the Thoughtfulness techniques. As we become more mindful of our daily experiences, we find fewer occasions in which we are experiencing anxiety.
I recently had an opportunity to put my thoughtfulness techniques into practice after I had read a colleagues comments on a public forum. Admittedly, I let my ego get the better of me and I allowed myself to get caught up in a discussion that ended up producing some anxiety in the form of frustration.
My frustration turned to excitement when I realized that I was presented with a wonderful opportunity. I could practice my Thoughtfulness techniques in a real world situation and again more first-hand experience.
The first thing I did was to check in with my body by using the ‘Feeling the Feeling’ technique. I found a place that I could be undisturbed for a period of time and I brought my attention to this sensation that I was experiencing in my stomach and chest area. There was a kind of tension and energy that I was experiencing in association with the issue.
As I drew my attention inward, I could investigate the feeling more closely and invite dialogue between my body and my conscious mind. In doing so, and as is often the case, I discovered that the feeling was more about an internal resistance to addressing an issue that it was about the feeling itself. When I fully allowed the feeling to exist and invited it to reveal itself more completely, it essentially evaporated.
During the same session I was able to acknowledge and identify the specific thought type that we call ‘worry.’ I noticed and acknowledged that I was entertaining thoughts about a possible future time when I would have to deal with undesirable circumstances and challenges. In noticing this type of thinking, I was able to bring my awareness more into the present moment and distance myself from any potential anxiety that my mind activity was producing.
Stepping back from my own thinking allowed me to the gain perspective I needed to feel more centered and present.
I concluded my session with a slow walk through my garden, finding beauty and peace in my surroundings. I spent a few minutes noticing the peaceful quality of the plants that are growing around me, listening to the sounds of the birds, and noticing the various sensations and effects of the wind and sunlight.
Having a very real, sensation-based experience helped me to create more space for the present and less space for the past and future. This “widening of the present” is one of the primary goals of the Thoughtfulness Practice.
While I wish I could report to you that this one session completely liberated me from the feelings of anxiety due to my recent experience, I can not. I can honestly say that it was quite helpful and has made it easier for me to engage in my practice on an ongoing basis, taking small amounts of time and without a great deal of effort.
I was able to reduce my feelings of anxiety without the use of drugs of any kind. The process was completely natural and unlike drugs, produces no side effects. What is perhaps most exciting to me, is that I was able to turn a potentially negative experience into an exciting opportunity and I’m actually looking forward to having more opportunities to use these techniques.
I feel like there are very few situations that could exist where I do not have some extremely effective tools that I can use. These tools are things that I carry with me so they are always available to me. I’m not only able to develop my set of thoughtfulness techniques, but I can add to them over time and the best part is that they are all completely free. All I have to do is put them to practice and they will develop and grow on their own.
I hope you will create future challenges with the excitement of a new adventure, using your thoughtfulness techniques to improve the quality of your life and those around you.
Namaste and Aloha,
May 31, 2013
Understanding that we have different types of thoughts, each with its own particular characteristics and qualities, is a key factor in our spiritual evolution.
on a very basic level, we can easily acknowledge 3 categories of thought quite clearly. We can be having a thought about something that occurred in the past, such as a memory or an event we are imagining to have occurred. We can have thoughts that relate to our present moment experiences. And we can have thoughts about things we imagine will be or could be happening at some point in the future.
Each of us experienced these three thought types. We all have many thoughts about the past present and future throughout the day. Many of these thoughts are repetitive or variations on the same thought, but we will address that in a future discussion. The important point is to recognize that not every thought we have has the same qualities or characteristics and may therefore be useful, or not useful, with regard to reaching various goals as you move throughout your day, creating and shaping your life the way you prefer it to be.
Just as their are three basic thought types with regard to time, or what some call ‘clock time,’ there are three basic feeling states we can attach to any given thought. Generally speaking, a thought could be categorized as being of a “low” or an undesirable quality, such as those that cause us to feel sad, anxious, or fearful. While these emotions are typical and functional, most people would characterize these types of thoughts as undesirable.
At the other end of the emotional spectrum, we find thoughts that most people would characterize as desirable. These are thoughts that conjure emotions and states such as joy, happiness, elation, excitement, and so on. For the sake of simplicity, we can label these thoughts as ” high.”
The third basic thought quality with regard to emotion or feeling is ‘neutral.’ Neutral thoughts are those that conjure neither “low” or “high” feeling states. These would most often be the bulk of the thoughts we have throughout a typical day. They include what we might refer to as mundane content, such as thinking about what we might need to do when we are out running errands.
Because we have three thought types that relate to time and three thought types that relate to emotional quality, we end up with a total of nine basic types. We can have thoughts that are low, neutral, and high about the past; low, neutral, and high about the present; and low, neutral, and high about the future.
One of the first steps you can take towards developing your Thoughtfulness Practice, is to start to recognize your thoughts according to the nine thought types identified above. At this beginning point, it is not necessary or advisable to try to change or manage your thoughts, only to recognize the quality of each thought so that you may become more aware of, and in tune with, the activity of your mind.
Even the simple act of observation can have profound effects on one’s ability to manage emotional reactions and remain in a state of centeredness and contentment. For now, your practice is to notice when you are producing thoughts about the past, present, or future, and to notice the emotional quality that is associated with those thoughts, be it low, neutral, or high. Noticing your own thought activity will be an enlightening experience and give you the perspective you need to make meaningful changes.
As you engage in the practice of observation, resist the temptation to judge your thoughts or assign value to them. Resist also the temptation to judge yourself for having certain types of thoughts, such as those you might classify as ‘negative.’ Self-judgment can result in feelings of frustration, anger, and even shame. Should you have thoughts of this nature, simply recognize them as negative thoughts in the present moment. Acknowledge the thought as the observer of the mind. Know that your mind is constantly producing many thoughts of different types, some of which you will find emotionally desirable, and some of which you will find emotionally undesirable.
The goal is not to try to change your thinking to produce only those types of thoughts that you would like to have, but to simply observe the thoughts and feelings that your mind/body is producing naturally. Once you are able to observe your own thinking and remain neutral, you will move to the next step, which involves selecting which thoughts to use and which thoughts to acknowledge and let go.
Thank you for engaging the Thoughtfulness Practice as a way to help yourself and your community.
Many blessings and much aloha to you, my friends.
Leave your questions and comments below and I will do my best to respond.
- Kalani Das
May 27, 2013
Some call it “clock time.” The Greeks called it ‘chronos,’ which is a way of measuring time by noting movement. The movement could be the sun passing overhead, the sand in an hourglass gently falling, or the metronomic tick-tock of the hands on a clock. There are many ways humans measure time, but the fact remains that there is only one moment – this one.
Because we have the concept of passing time, we also have the concept of past and future. We learn to think in terms of history and the future. “What we did” or “What we will do.” These are common thoughts and even expected. It’s interesting to pause and consider that, although we can think about the past and future, we can only ever be in the present.
It’s impossible to be in the past or the future. When we think about the past, we are making a guess as to what actually happened. We’re not ever sure because we can’t know everything that is happening from moment to moment. We piece the past together from bits of information that we gather – in the present.
The same holds true for the future. We guess as to what will be coming up. We’re hardly ever right and when the present is not how we imagined it, we often are convinced that something went wrong. “This isn’t how things are supposed to be!” “I thought they would be different – and now I’m upset!”
Yes, we can think of all kinds of scenarios to fill our need to know what happened in the past and what will be happening in the future. The reality is, these are always guesses. Our thoughts about everything, even the present, are collections of ideas, hunches, guesses, approximations, partial truths, etc. We don’t really ‘know’ what is happening, we just imagine what is happening – or what happened or will happen.
Accepting that our life experience is contained within a ‘range of possibilities’ can be liberating. It helps us accept that there are always many ways to view a situation, for example. It helps us accept that others might have a different idea about what is ‘happening.’ It helps us remember that the past, present, and future are all open to interpretation, flexible and able to be shaped by our perspective and orientation.
Most of all, the idea of a flexible reality helps us remain open to the many possibilities that IS the world we live in. It reminds us that we use our minds to conceive of the world, not to ‘know’ it. Knowing is affected by the ‘knower.’ Being, on the other hand, is simply experiencing the sensations of life, not trying to shape a particular reality, but simply sensing that you are part of something – in relationship with everything.
A practice of sensing your own life experience in the eternal moment, not according to any ideas of the ‘passage of time,’ is one way to broaden your presence. Find yourself in this moment, over and over again. When your mind wanders to the past or future, simple say to yourself, “I’m thinking of the past (or future) and I am doing it now.” This simple thought helps to acknowledge the activity of the mind so you (not your mind) can refocus on your current experience of being.
We never try to suppress the activity of the mind. Thought suppression is very difficult for most people and not necessary for achieving presence. Accept that your mind can be very ‘busy’ and produce a great amount of thoughts. This is not a problem unless you decide that it is. Let your mind do what it does and simply choose which of your many thoughts to follow, or not.
As you begin to notice and accept your thoughts, you might find that you do not repeat the same thoughts as much. If you do repeat thoughts (and most people do) it’s OK. Allow the mind to work as hard as it wants without getting swept up in its activity. You are always able to connect with the present moment and experience the beauty and peace that surounds and flows through you.
Blessings to you my friends,
September 25, 2012
For many of us, worrying is like a given. Everyone seems to do it, and almost no one questions it. Why, when it’s largely agreed-upon that worrying produces little or no value, do so many of us participate in this seemingly unproductive exercise?
To answer this question, we’ll need to define what we mean by the term ‘worrying.’ A simple definition I can offer is this: “Worrying is the combination of imagining an undesirable situation occurring at some point in the future, with the anxiety associated with that thought.”
Right away, we can agree that worrying is a voluntary action of entertaining the idea that, at some point in the future, there will exist a situation that we will experience as not only undesirable, but also as anxiety-producing.
Why, on earth would we do this? What purpose does this serve? One could argue that worrying is our way of making sure that we take steps to prepare for the future. In other words, if we are able to imagine an undesirable scenario at some point in the future, we might be able to prevent it from happening by taking some preventative actions in the present. This seems to be perfectly reasonable; however, what we are really talking about here is preparation, which does not need to include the anxiety that often comes with worry.
Getting back to the definition above, we see that the act of worrying involves imagining an undesirable situation. This, in and of itself, may not cause us to experience anxiety in the present; however, it often does. The key difference between worrying and simply thinking about the future, lies within our reaction to those thoughts in the present moment.
What happens when we worry, is that we “buy in” to the scenario, as if it were really going to happen. Our mind follows the thought, and in many ways, gets swept up by it. We find ourselves feeling as if we are also becoming swept up, our feet rising off the ground, our emotions running rampant. We respond to our imagined thoughts as if they were real. But of course, they are not.
How do we change this pattern? How do we direct our mind and body back into the present moment, where everything is okay–where we are safe? The answer is simple. We have only to remember that we have thoughts about the future because our mind is trying to help us. Our mind is presenting us with as many different scenarios as possible, as a way to make sure we are prepared for anything that could happen. When we acknowledge that our mind is simply trying to help us, but that not all of our thoughts about the future are valid–or even true, we place ourselves in the position of being able to choose which thoughts to follow, and which ones to experience as merely products of a busy mind.
One way to change your perspective with regard to various thoughts, is to imagine your mind as your helper, which it is. Rather than thinking of your thoughts as “my thoughts,” think of them as “my mind’s thoughts.” Think of the thoughts your mind produces as your mind’s way of trying to help you. After all, the main purpose of your mind is to help you solve problems. The mind seeks out problems to solve. When there is no apparent problem to solve, the mind often creates potential problems to solve. Worrying can be thought of as your mind presenting you with a potential problem to solve. When we experience worrisome thoughts from this perspective, it becomes quite clear that we have a choice to either follow the thought as if it were real, or to simply note the thought and remain grounded in the present moment.
Having an active mind is not a problem. In fact, it’s a blessing. The only way our thoughts can cause us to experience anxiety about the future, is for us to forget that not all of our thoughts are valid with regard to our lives in the present–or the future.
The next time you start experiencing worrisome thoughts, use it as an opportunity to see those thoughts as products of your creative mind. Celebrate the fact that your mind is so creative that it is able to imagine different scenarios occurring at some point in the future–even ones that might cause you anxiety. Do not try to suppress your thoughts. Do not fight your mind. Rather, acknowledge that your mind is simply trying to help you. Be grateful for having this creative resource at your disposal. Say “thank you” to your mind, for offering you so many options. When you do arrive at your imagined ‘point in the future,’ where you will need to make a decision, you will do what is needed with the tools you have at that time. This is all you have ever done–and all you will ever do. This is perfectly natural and all you can expect, since there is no way to address a ‘future problem’ in the present moment.
Meeting challenges does not have to involve feeling upset and powerless. To the contrary, working through challenges can be one of the most invigorating and satisfying things we do. When we are grounded in the present, worrying about the future, becomes a thing of the past.
March 15, 2012
When you’re reviewing conversations that you had with other people, or thinking about conversations that you will have with them, who are you talking to? In your mind, you’re having a conversation with the other person, but in reality, everything that they “say” and “do” is being projected by your mind. This is self-evident and with the exception of those who may be delusional, most people would agree that they are creating all of the “conversations” that occur in their own minds.
We all engage in these types of conversations and there’s nothing out of the ordinary about this. This type of mental activity is evidence of the helping nature of the mind. As I have previously discussed, the mind is always looking for puzzles to solve and ways to help improve our situation. Internal dialoguing only becomes an issue for someone when they lose their perspective and get swept away in their own mind flow.
If your internal dialoguing is causing you to experience feelings of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, rapid shallow breathing, sweating or nervousness, it may help you to remind yourself of the process in which you are engaging–at the moment that you are doing it. Most people tend to accept internal dialogue as part of everyday life. As I mentioned, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about having internal dialogue. Sometimes; however, internal dialoguing can result in a decrease in the quality of our current experience by distracting us from our “real-time” life.
Becoming aware of the quantity and the quality of our internal dialogue is an important first step to improving the overall quality of your life experience. A very simple action, and something that anyone can do at any time, is to identify when you are having internal dialogue by pausing to take note. All you need to do is say to yourself “I’m dialoguing with myself.” There is no judgment in this statement. The purpose is to simply identify your current state and bring it to your attention in an objective way.
By using the statement “I’m dialoguing with myself” you create the opportunity to examine your own thinking, as if you were a third party observing the conversation between two other people (you, and the person you’re “talking” to). From this perspective, you may gain insight into the nature of the “conversation.”
If your internal dialoguing is bringing about feelings of anxiety, you could simply decide to stop. If you’re like most people, your internal dialogue is probably somewhat repetitive and you tend to have the same or similar conversations with the same people about the same issues. If there is an issue that is ongoing, say between you and someone you work with, and you are engaging in repetitive internal dialoguing with the hopes of finding an acceptable solution, you may wish to take a different approach. Since internal dialoguing is actually a conversation with yourself, it stands to reason that you may never find resolution because the conversation is completely one-sided and does not actually involve the other party, with whom you are working. To move forward, it’s likely the case that you will need to address the issue directly with the other person rather than exclusively within your own mind. In the meantime, it may help to reduce the amount of time that you spend engaged in internal dialogue.
The simple act of identifying a process, such as dialoguing, can have profound and positive effects on your general sense of wellbeing, freeing up valuable mental ‘real estate’ that can be used for more productive and positive experiences. One of the most enjoyable experiences that could take the place of internal dialoguing is to notice the sensation of being alive from within your own body. Focusing on “the evidence of life,” such as your breathing, heartbeat, physical sensations and everything that you experience through your senses, can be a wondrous and enjoyable experience. You do not have to “do” anything to experience the wonder and beauty of life. All you have to do is pay attention to what is.
When we clear away the clutter from our mind, stepping out of our ‘mind flow’ long enough to stand at the bank of the river, and stop trying to make our lives happen by using our minds, we increase the potential for noticing and acknowledging our true nature, which is poised at the edge of evolution. It’s ironic that many of us seem to be under the impression that we can think our way out of the problems of thinking! Having access to a resource such as the human mind is an amazing gift, but sometimes the solution to the problems of thinking can be so simple, they tend to be overlooked or undervalued.
Life is not complicated, nor is it meant to cause anxiety or suffering. Those states generally exist in the domain of thought. The next time you are over thinking, having internal dialogues and feeling swept away in the flow of your own thoughts, pause to notice this with an objective statement. You may even find it useful to say it out loud. “I’m talking to myself.” or “I’m having an internal dialogue.” From a place of objectivity, you can choose to take a different path. Try it and see what happens.
February 7, 2012
I recently returned from a two-week teaching and lecturing trip to Australia. After one of the sessions a woman approached me and asked if I had a few minutes to talk. she confided in me that, although she does do things from which she gains a lot of enjoyment, she often feels sad and isn’t sure exactly why. She went on to tell me that she sometimes gets frustrated because the reason for the sadness is not clear, and that fact sometimes adds to the frustration and creates even more sadness.
During the consultation, we talked about the thoughtfulness practice of ‘feeling the feeling.’ In this practice, the purpose is to remove any resistance from receiving the messages that your subconscious or unconscious body/mind is attempting to send you through the conduit of emotions and feelings. Ironically, it is often our resistance to undesirable feelings that produces the majority of our suffering, this concept is at the core of many spiritual teachings, primarily Buddhism.
As I asked her questions about the feeling and about what she was doing about it, she did seem to understand the dynamics in which she was engaging. She seemed to acknowledge that, even though she couldn’t identify the reason for the sadness, she was unable to prevent the feeling from taking over.
My recommendation was that she set aside some time, when she could focus and be undisturbed, to allow herself to feel the feeling and even invited it into her being, thereby allowing it to flow in and through her. I explained that it is often our resistance to negative feelings that creates the dynamic of tension–two forces working in opposition to each other.
I recommended that she focus on the feeling and try to identify where it manifests in her body. We often feel sadness in our chest and/or abdomen, although not exclusively so. I invited her to explore the feeling and to ask it, as you would a child, “What can I do for you?” or “What’s wrong?” By meeting the feeling of sadness with compassion, we can tear down the system of tension and suffering, opening up a dialogue with ourselves that can lead to greater peace and well-being.
By the end of our conversation her mood seemed quite a bit brighter. She was smiling and had a certain sense of lightness about her. She assured me she would try the thoughtfulness practice, even if, and especially when, she wasn’t in the mood to do so!
It’s completely understandable, but in today’s world of Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter, that one would feel the pressure to always be “up” and “cheerful.” The reality is, everyone feels sad some of the time–for various reasons. There’s nothing wrong with feeling sad. In fact, feelings always have a purpose–to inform us of what might be going on in our subconscious. It’s only when we are unable to cope with these feelings and when they cause us further suffering that we need a more functional approach.
The next time you’re feeling sad for ‘no reason,’ try using the thoughtfulness practice of “feeling the feeling” and see if it makes a difference. The only thing you might have to lose is a little bit of your sadness.
Share your thoughts about this article below.
December 15, 2011
It’s often the case that we reflect on ways to help each other during the Holidays, whether it’s donating some time to help serve meals to those in need, running errands for someone who is homebound, or simply donating our time to be with people who could use some company, such as those in retirement homes or hospitals.
Giving the gift of support, through physical or personal donations is a wonderful way to create a sense of connectedness with others and foster community on all levels. Gifts of this kind can take the form of specific events, such as making a special trip to a senior center to sing holiday songs with the residents, or helping to collect and distribute gifts through your community organization.
Gifts of Peace can also take a much smaller, more subtle form. They can be given in very small packets of attention, listening, and validating others. When someone approaches you with a worried look on their face, tension in their voice, and anxiety in their mind, listening with attention and compassion might be all that is needed to open up their hearts. This simple act can be one form of mindfulness-based meditation. When those around us are nurtured, we feel nurtured as well.
Embodying tenderness in all that you do, can have ripple effects that extend into the world, well beyond the physical limits of your immediate world. Walking through the world with a smile on your lips and openness in your eyes can affect everyone you touch in ways that are profound. Giving this kind of peace is not something that is usually noticed, but it is felt.
As you drive to your appointments this holiday season, think of every driver as your dear friend. Perhaps they need to get somewhere quickly, which is why they need to speed around you or get into that parking spot. Let them. Create space for peace by allowing others to flow around you. See them as members of your family who might need more understanding and support at this time. Give them the peace you carry in your heart. You will never run out!
One of the best ways to give peace, is to not take things personally when something unexpected or undesirable happens. Keep in mind that you have expectations. (We all do). But it is only when you compare your expectations with what actually happens that you might become frustrated and upset. When we accept the world as it is, we will never be upset – because we are always starting from the situation that is. This does not mean that we do not strive to improve, only that we are not caught up in comparing what we wanted to have happen with what is happening, which is pointless and often stressful.
Give peace by listening to someone talk without judging their circumstances or trying to ‘fix’ their problems. Listen with an open heart and mind, making eye contact and finding the bright spots in what the share. Often, people focus on their problems, but it is impossible for someone to know what his problems are unless he also has some idea of that the solutions! (otherwise he would simply accept the situation as normal).
Give peace by not engaging in positions of tension. Someone might say something with which you disagree. That’s OK. Is it important to defend the opposite position at that time? What is more important, to be ‘right’ or to be at peace? If you can, allow others to have their opinions and focus on what you both enjoy. Celebrate the good that you both see in the world. Often, when we remove our ‘problems’ we find love – for love is at the core of creation. Love is the heartbeat of the universe – the ‘one song’ that we all sing each day.
Give peace to yourself by having compassion for the child inside you that is doing the best he/she can. Allow yourself to make mistakes and laugh at yourself -because you know that life is about trying things, making discoveries, and exploring the boundaries of the imagination. Life is not a performance. It is an adventure – and adventures are marked by surprises. Enjoy them and be grateful.
Give peace to the planet by being a stuart of all your relations. Take care of every being you encounter, every form of life, and every phase of life. See the stages of the manifested world as one dance, moving in harmony, you with your place and everything else with its place, interconnected and interdependent. Know that, by offering peace, you are creating peace for yourself. Be peaceful and the world will reciprocate.
Blessings to you this holiday season.
May you be peace!
December 11, 2011
The dictionary defines ‘Sorrow’ as: 1) deep distress, sadness, or regret especially for the loss of someone or something loved and 2) resultant unhappy or unpleasant state.
In an earlier post called ‘The Functional Mind,’ I talked about how the primary functions of the mind is to identify, categorize, associate, store and retrieve data (information about the world, both external and internal).
Looking at the feeling of sorrow through the lens of the Thoughtfulness Practice, we can immediately see that a state of sorrow depends on us first categorizing something as a ‘loss,’ secondly as associated with something ‘loved,’ and most importantly – the thoughts that lead to this state must be retrieved over and over again.
We’ve all felt the deep sadness that comes from experiencing the loss of something we hold dear. It might have been a friend, family member or a pet. It could have been a quality that was ‘lost’ such as tenderness or innocence.
Whatever it was, the ‘loss’ is experienced as an emotion that often manifests throughout the body as a feeling of both emptiness and heaviness. We might experience sensations of tension coupled with feelings of helplessness. Sorrow is a powerful feeling and it can weigh us down and drain us of energy.
Clearly, there are times when it is appropriate and, some might argue, necessary to allow one’s self to enter into a state of sorrow. In times of great loss, sorrow serves to slow us down, provide a space for mourning, reflection, and the healing process to begin. This is normal and when appropriate, sorrow can be exactly what we need to process an event in our lives.
The key to living an enlightened life, is to know when and how to move beyond sorrow and resume the natural state of bliss and gratitude that is the birthright of every living being. As ‘universal beings’ we are wired for bliss and healthiest when manifesting joy. We are most productive when we are happy and looking forward to the many gifts each day brings.
Let’s see how we can use the teachings of the Thoughtfulness Practice to move beyond sorrow, when the time is right.
Sorrow, as a condition, depends largely on the re-experiencing of the feeling of loss. In most cases, the ‘loss’ is a change from one circumstance to another (i.e., My pet was here and now he/she is gone). In order to experience the sorrow, we must re-mind ourselves of the loss and continue to wish that the current condition was different than it is.
We know that the mind’s job is to store and retrieve data, but we also know that it is our perspective and orientation that determines the quality of that information. ‘Quality” in this case refers to the relevance and usefulness of the thought as it pertains to our life.
When we take an objective look at a ‘sorrow-producing’ thought, we can examine it for its quality by asking the questions:
- Is this thought true in its timeliness?
- Does maintaining this thought serve my highest good?
- Am I willing and ready to let go of this thought/feeling?
Is this thought true in its timeliness?
Sometimes we hold on to an event, thought, or feeling long after the event has past. We continue to re-mind ourselves of it until it becomes almost hard-wired into our daily life. We change our perspective to accommodate the thought and can even change our entire orientation in life. In some cases, our mood suffers, we feel sad, our bodies ache, we’re unmotivated and even angry. In extreme cases we might experience depression and feelings of helplessness.
The KEY is to consider the timeline and be realistic about the event, which may have happened months and even years before. Even though we can remember it, is it true in this moment? Are those events happening now? Chances are, if we’re being honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We can help move beyond sorrow, by admitting that it is us who are continuing to pull the event into the present, through the use of our mind. This is a mis-use of the mind. The first step is to notice that this is happening.
Does maintaining this thought serve my highest good?
If you were going to recommend that someone else either use or not use the ‘sorrow-producing thought,’ what would you tell them? Be honest. Does pulling the thought and feeling into the present serve you in your highest good? Does it help you feel more like yourself or something else? If it is not serving you, then it makes sense to change your perspective and focus on what does. You can do this by simply observing the thought, feeling the feeling, and not reacting negatively to the presence of the thought. (See the article “Feeling the Feeling.)
We can allow a thought without having a reactive experience to it. When we provide compassion to our own sorrow, we begin to heal – we begin to understand that it is not the event that is causing us to suffer, but our resistance to the change in our life situation. We sometimes become bound to a feeling and the orientation around that feeling. We might think that if we are not sad that we are not honoring the person or thing that we loved, but this thinking only hurts ourselves and those who are with us. In fact, we can honor those we loved by living a bright and joyful life.
When a though does not align with your highest good, you have the option of acknowledging that. When you truly acknowledge that you could be spending more time with your quality thoughts, you will reclaim your highest good and use your mind in ways that lead to productively and happiness.
Am I willing and ready to let go of this thought/feeling?
As mentioned above, we sometimes hold on to a thought or feeling for various reasons. We may actually become attached to feelings of sadness and sorrow to the point where they become part of who we are. You can sometimes see this in people who have suffered great loss. They seem to carry the thought and feelings of sorrow with them everywhere, never letting go, always focused on a feeling of loss and suffering. It’s not as important to know why people do this as it is to know that it is always a choice.
In order to allow a feeling to move beyond your conscious mind, you must be willing to allow that to happen, which means you must be willing to let the associations go as well. This might feel like abandoning the thing you loved, but in truth, it is honoring all that is good in life. Have you ever met someone who suggested to you that, should they pass on before you, they would want you to feel sorrow for a long time? Of course not.
Once the sorrow has served its purpose, once the appropriate space has been created and rituals for healing have been practiced, once the person, pet or thing has been acknowledged and respects have been paid, the focus can return to the present moment – not to the future, but the here and now.
Letting go of sorrow does not mean forgetting about people or what they meant. It means returning to a state of gratitude and wonderment for each and every moment that is your life. It means allowing yourself to be present in your life and not stuck in the past or future.
We can move beyond sorrow when we acknowledge that our mind is a tool for solving problems – not producing them. When we are able to manage our thoughts in a way that produces quality, we can release feelings of sorrow. By embracing the wonder and joy that is inherent in each moment, we focus on appreciation for the gifts of life, rather than what we think was taken from us.
Each day is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present. (Anon)
What do you think of this Thoughtfulness Practice?
Have you found ways to move beyond sorrow?
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November 6, 2011
In the article, The Functional Mind, we learned that the mind carries out at least three primary functions: 1) to identify things, 2) to make associations between things, and 3) to store and retrieve information. In this article, we will learn that we can develop and choose various perspectives with regards to the ‘items’ of the mind.
As we experience life, we collect memories. Things happen to us. We identify those events, categorize them, make associations between those events as past events, and store them in the vastness of our minds. Some of the events in our lives become ‘repressed’ or ‘unconscious’ memories, driving us from a deeper place than we are aware. But many of the event in our lives are readily available for consideration and review at any time. These will be the subject of this article.
Given that our minds do categorize, make associations, and store information, one questions we might ask is, how are those ‘items’ organized in my mind? In other words: What is the relationship between your present thoughts and all the memories that you have accumulated in your life? Are your memories ‘close to the surface’? Do you often make associations between things that are happening in the present and past events? If you find yourself comparing what is happening ‘now’ with what happened ‘before,’ then this could be a major factor in how you shape your personal perspective.
When we ‘view’ the items in our mind through a particular ‘lens,’ aligning certain types of ‘events’ into sets and categorizing certain types of memories as groups, then we view those items from a particular perspective. In reality, all the memories we have are discrete. They are, in fact, not related at all, but our mind makes associations between things that ‘re-mind’ us of other things, so these ‘items’ tend to become grouped together – viewed as a group.
Imagine that all the memories you have are floating in a holographic space that is your mind. Some are in the back, others in the front. Some are to the left, others to the right. All your memories (and the thoughts and feelings that are associated with them) are ‘hovering’ in the space of your mind.
When we are re-minded of a particular mind ‘item,’ we can choice to ‘view’ that item by itself or in association with other items. Most people tend to do the latter, either consciously or unconsciously. Most people tend to view an event ‘in alignment with’ other events that they have identified as similar. It’s as if you are standing in front of a large three-dimensional model of your mind, where memories are placed on levels, like one of those 3-D chess or checkers games.
If you were to walk around the ‘game board’ you would find that you could, through your positioning, align various combinations of items on the boards, so they form a line or group. This ‘aligning to view’ certain types of memories, thoughts and feelings, is what we call ‘perspective.’ Your perspective is your chosen ‘line of sight’ when viewing those items of the mind. How you choose to view the contents of you mind will, in large part, determine what kind of experience you have when faced with new events.
We all have choices with regards to which ‘perspective’ we choose to use. This is obvious, as evidenced by two people arguing over what a shared experience ‘means’ or even what ‘happened.’ Both people have their own perspective–the viewpoint they each choose based on the associations they make between what they remember and what they identify as currently happening.
A Thoughtfulnerss Practice:
The ‘key’ to choosing your perspective, is to remember that every event in your life is unique and not related to what has come before–even if something that is currently happening reminds you of some prior event or situation. This truly is key. Making false associations between the present and the past, then viewing the present from the perspective of the past only takes us farther from the present moment. Adding layers of ‘past’ to the present blurs our vision of what is actually happening, coloring our perspective in some way.
Viewing the present from a neutral perspective, not aligning with any past events, thoughts, feelings, or emotions, helps us remain in the present and appreciate the beauty and unique qualities of every moment in our lives. Unless there is a good reason to take a specific perspective, as a means to maintaining safety, for example, focus on the uniqueness of the present experience, rather than making associations to the past-or future. When you find yourself ‘lining up’ similar ‘items’ to view them as a group, change your perspective so you see the present as a single item. This way, you will enjoy the unique beauty and power of being present.
In a future article, we will example how using a certain perspective repeatedly, over time, can cause someone to adopt a specific ‘orientation.’
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October 19, 2011
Watch the news and you would think that the world is in a constant state of unrest, but is this really true? Does conflict take the place of peace or can there be peace within struggle, within conflict and tension? Finding peace might seem like an almost unsurmountable task in ‘times of conflict,’ but there’s another way to approach finding it that doesn’t rely on others or even yourself to manifest this state of continuity and clarity that we all seek.
Finding peace can be the result of connecting to something that is peaceful. Anyone who knows nature has experienced the sense of peace that comes from taking a leisurely walk through a natural landscape, sitting alongside a gently flowing stream, or watching the clouds roll by from a grassy hillside. While we generally find these experiences peaceful, we’re only scratching the surface. There’s more we can do, purposefully and with full attention, to connect to peace and find that feeling within ourselves.
They say that ‘It takes one to know one.’ While this phrase has traditionally been used as a snappy come-back, aimed at the teaser and most often used in children’s culture, we can use it as a starting point to help point us towards peace. Translated another way, we could say that “It takes knowing peace to be at peace.” In other words, we can identify peace where it exists, connect to that active experience, and manifest that experience through our experiences.
How do we connect to peace? First, we locate something peaceful, something beautiful, something that is manifesting peace. This actually applies to just about everything in nature, but let’s begin with those manifestations that are most recognizable as beautiful and peaceful: plants and more specifically, trees and flowers. For the purpose of this practice, the object of our attention will be a healthy, living, expression (life form), that we find pleasing to observe.
Find a living plant (tree or flower) in a place where you will have 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted time. Make yourself comfortable and prepare your body and mind with some gentle stretches, deep, slow breathing, and making yourself comfortable. Once settled, focus on the object of peace. (Make sure that you are close enough to the object to observe detail) Begin by observing the item as a whole. Take in the beauty. Proceed to notice small details, lines, curves, points of interest, etc. Notice how it grows up and out, spreading into the word to show its beauty. Notice how peaceful it is – how calm – yet steady and in many ways, strong and grounded it is.
Begin to imagine what it would feel like to be that plant. How does it experience the world? Imagine the feeling of having your roots spread out into the cool earth. Think about what they would feel like, not as a human, but as the plant. Notice the steam or trunk and imagine how it feels to be reaching upward, strong and connected. Notice the branches and stems and the feeling of spreading out. Notice the flowers and leaves and the urge and feeling to allow your beauty to show without reserve, without hesitation, naked for the world to see. Imagine the feeling of peace that this life experiences each and every moment: grounded, growing, reaching, opening. Imagine yourself ‘as’ the plant (not as a person observing). Use your ability to empathize with this life you see in front of you to find the feelings of peace that it so completely embodies.
Begin to imagine your own body in the same way as you see the plant, connected, growing, branching out, blossoming, showing your beauty without reserve. Find the same feeling of peace within yourself. You are a manifestation of the same force that is manifesting the plant. Know that you also represent peace, naturally. Connect with your own embodiment of peace that is an innate part of your existence. Feel the feeling. Experience the sensation of being alive, of growing without trying, of opening up to the universal love that creates the manifested. You are not a ‘part of’ or ‘apart from’ the Universe. You are an expression of the universe.
After spending a few minutes experiencing deep sensations of peace, begin to bring your awareness back to the general environment. Slowly transition out of your peace practice and use the experience to inform and shape how you experience yourself and others in the future. Represent peace to others. Be a model, even if they are unable or unwilling to follow your example. Represent peace through your ability to remain grounded, growing, and blossoming. Show your beauty to others in the hopes that they will find the beauty in themselves.
This is the Thoughfulness Practice of “Finding Peace.”
- How do you create this practice in your life?
- What are some benefits of this Practice?
Share your thoughts and ideas below.