Thought-Watching

Posted on January 18, 2013

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woman_contemplating

One of the best ways to recognize your thought patterns and habits of thinking is to meditate. Many people think that meditation means clearing their minds or learning how not to think and so they sit there and try to do that. When it doesn’t work, they give up. ‘I don’t think I was doing it right,’ many clients have told me. ‘I tried to stop my thoughts but I couldn’t.’

Personally, I think trying to stop thinking is like trying to stop breathing. It’s possible to stop, but then you’d probably be dead. Every organ is our body serves a particular purpose and the brain’s purpose is to think. So let it think. Don’t try to stop your brain from doing its job.

Instead, use a daily practice of meditation to observe your thoughts.

Some people say to watch your thoughts go by in your head like watching clouds go by in the sky. Personally, most of my thoughts aren’t that peaceful.  Some of my thoughts feel so true that it’s almost impossible for me to distance myself from them. So rather than throw another unfitting simile at you, I’d rather advise you to just watch your thoughts for a bit and see if you notice a pattern. This won’t be obvious right away, you may have to take up a daily meditation practice of 10 minutes for several weeks before you see it, but I can say with almost complete certainty that your thoughts have habits. 

They habitually return to the same themes and stories. Some of the most popular ones are: 

1. Worries about not being enough of something (good enough, smart enough, skinny enough, rich enough, successful enough)

2. Preoccupations with what others think/are saying

3. The never-ending list of things that you feel you have to do

4. Fears of being excluded, criticized and ridiculed

Sit with yourself for a few days, for a few minutes and just watch your thoughts. After some time, the particular habits of your brain will become more and more obvious, and then you can start to shift the patterns of thinking that aren’t working for you. 

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