Now we’ve arrived at potentially the most powerful way to break out of a cycle of negative thoughts and feelings. It is through mindfulness, which is really a way of changing our being more than just our doing or thinking. It is the transformation of consciousness.
As a refresher, mindfulness is the term used in psychology (although it’s been around for thousands of years) to describe turning our awareness to the present moment, becoming aware of our experiences – our thoughts, actions, and feelings – without judgment. We are not our thoughts, actions, or feelings. We are the conscious presence that observes these. However, if we do not tap into this reality, then we fall victim to the content of our mind – whatever that may be. When we can learn to separate who we really are from the incessant voice in the head, the thoughts can no longer overpower us.
Going back to the thoughts as a river metaphor, the current of our thoughts can sweep us away if we become lost in our thoughts. That is, we are in trouble when we identify with our thoughts. If I have the thought, “I’m an idiot,” I’m going to feel pretty bad. However, if I can realize that I’m just having a thought that I’m an idiot, then I begin the process of separating my thoughts from who I really am – the conscious presence who is aware that I’m having a thought that I’m an idiot! When you get this separation, you are now, metaphorically speaking, standing on the river bank and no longer being tossed about in current of the river.
As I said in a previous post, I believe the popular “cognitive-behavioral therapy” approach (or CBT) really works because we become more mindful of our thoughts…particularly our negative thoughts…and learn not to get swept up in them. There’s no way to change patterns of dysfunctional thinking without first becoming aware of the dysfunctional thinking. You are that awareness.
To be mindful, you are not emptying your head and trying to think of nothingness. If you are trying to think of nothing, you are still thinking! Instead of trying to have no thoughts go on in your head, just tune in to the present moment. How do you know that you’re alive? Can you sense your breathing? Do you feel the “aliveness” in your body? Where and how do you feel it? What different shapes and colors do you see around you? How many different sounds can you detect right now? All of these things can pull us in to the present moment.
When we are in the present moment, we are fully connected to the world around us – which is the only world there really is. The world that goes on inside our heads is fiction. When we are present, there are no negative thoughts to fight anymore. They disappear entirely when we are living in the now. We are totally unshackled from the thoughts in the head. This is true liberation.