Last week’s post was about being, not doing. This week it is about seeing thoughts for what they are: thoughts, not facts.
If something happens and you start thinking negatively about yourself, it can spiral out of control as you find more and more memories to support those thoughts.
To counteract your negative thoughts, you can try taking a different perspective and imagine what a good friend would say to you under the circumstances and the compassion that they would show.
Easier than that though is to take the mindful approach and step back from your negative thoughts and just observe them for what they are: ‘symptoms of stress, just as a high temperature is a symptom of flu’ (Williams & Penman/Mindfulness).
The following meditation on sound is a preparation for that:
- Sit comfortably as for previous meditations
- Close your eyes and listen out for any sounds outside
- Just listen to them
- If you start thinking about a sound, just notice that and listen out for another sound
- After a while, shift your attention to sounds in the room
- As before, if a sound triggers thoughts, acknowledge it and go back to just listening
- Next, focus on any sounds from your own body (I like to listen in to my heartbeat, which I am usually oblivious to at other times)
- Again, listen, don’t think.
Now try meditating on your thoughts in a similar way:
- Sit as before with your eyes closed
- When a thought crosses your mind, notice it - don’t dwell on it, just observe it - and then let it go
- Do the same with every thought that arises
- I think of them as waves approaching a beach, breaking and then receding to be replaced by the next wave and the next (sometimes it is a very stormy sea and sometimes it is calm and there are no waves)
- It can also be helpful to view the thoughts as weather patterns: a sunny spell, or a rainy spell, or light cloud (and when it’s raining you know the sun will come out again eventually).
It’s not very seasonal, but this haiku is relevant here and was inspired by a mindful walk earlier this year:
Like thoughts through my mind
Wind makes water of barley –
Waves rippling through.