You may have heard it before from various places but it important to remember and sometimes remind ourselves that thoughts are things. Everything is energy. If you have ever delved into learning about the practice of mindfulness, you quickly learn that your mind can have a mind of its own and that thinking is constantly happening moment by moment. Thoughts come one after another, we have around 60,000 thoughts a day. Most people are not paying attention to the quantity of thoughts or the quality of their thoughts- which is called automatic pilot. Like anything else if we don’t learn how to discipline our mind then our mind can control us, and when our mind wanders, it tends to skew negatively, leading to negative emotions and experiences in our daily lives, showing up as doubt, fear, panic, and catastrophic thinking. Maybe you have experienced this or seen close family members and friends suffer from this type of mind virus. Fear not, there is hope, there is always hope and every moment is a new beginning.
Mindfulness is another word for awareness, and it is with awareness that you can start to stop and shift into a new path. Awareness can break the stress reactivity cycle that can wreak havoc on our nervous systems as we can see illustrated below.
The foundational practice of mindfulness is the body scan meditation. It is not sexy, and it is not fun- or at least I would not call it fun. Stress and trauma is held in the body. The body scan is a functional technique used to observe stress that is being held in the body by examining with a highly focused attention to the physical sensations being felt on a cellular level in the body, part by part. One way to think of this is doing your own MRI on the body. Tuning into your body, feeling your body, its stress, and the stories and thoughts that arise when you pay attention to the body.
To give you an example, when I did my first body scan many years ago I noticed several things that surprised me. One was that my blood pressure was rapid and intense, my breath was constricted, meaning I was feeling tense and anxious, and my body overall was tight and my stress level was far greater than I could have ever imagined. My mind was all over the place, thinking about my caseload, people I needed to talk to, phone calls I had to make, crises that needed to be tended to- my mind was everywhere else but myself and my own health and mental wellbeing. I was a mess and had no idea. I would have told you if had asked me that I was completely fine. The full body scan gave me a look under the hood to see what was really going on, and it wasn’t pretty, but it was honest- this is Awareness. The mind can play mental gymnastics and lie to us, but the body will be honest. I see clients all the time with their meditation apps and I have never had anyone tell me they do full body scans, which generally go about 35-60 minutes to put things into perspective. And if you are meditating seriously I recommend no less than 20 minutes.
Circling back to thoughts and thinking and thoughts are things. When you start to observe your thoughts, you can then begin to work with them. What are the quality of my thoughts? Do they carry a positive or negative charge? If you are familiar with the story of the two wolves, then you know that the wolf you feed is the wolf that wins. Is my thinking healthy, practical, constructive, honest, or is it dysfunctional? Most people I see don’t realize they are often catastrophizing, and their thinking is in a mode of fear, worry, doubt, and uncertainty (fight or flight mode).
Someone shared with me recently that someone they love is having difficulty recovering from an injury. Part of their delay in recovery is fear. When they put weight on their leg the first thought they have is “I can’t, it hurts.” If that thinking is not changed, then greater suffering will be endured, and fear will be fostered. The only action of fear is to claim more fear. But if they reframe their thoughts to something more constructive, such as “You can do this, the pain is temporary,” then they will be able to safely rehabilitate their injury, and courage (action in spite of fear) will be forged.
Change your thinking and change your life. Thoughts are things. Your thoughts can create your reality, as such they are precious. I will leave you with some beautiful words from one of my favorite authors Louise Hay from her book You can Heal Your Life:
In the infinity of life where I am,
all is perfect, whole, and complete.
Each one of us, myself included, experiences the richness
and fullness of life in ways that are meaningful to us.
I now look at the past with love and choose
to learn from my old experiences.
There is no right or wrong, nor good or bad.
The past is over and done.
There is only the experience of the moment.
I love myself for bringing myself
through this past into this present moment.
I share what and who I am,
For I know we are all one in Spirit.
All is well in my world.