You don’t have to think incessantly. No need to analyse every last thought and no need to believe your thoughts just because you are thinking. Thoughts come and go and between thoughts are gaps however brief; small pockets of silence or peace. You could call the gaps mini vacations.
Effortlessly noticing your thoughts and the gaps allows you to detach and take a more measured view of your thinking. Literally question your thoughts; investigate their validity.
Your thoughts can trick you into thinking you must think. “I must think about…” is a thought. I use “I must think about…” as a reminder to not get sucked in, because I find answers come more readily if I don’t get head deep in thought; or over thinking.
Conscious awareness is simply noticing thoughts and noticing gaps between thoughts – both of which raise your alertness in the moment. The alert attention is effortless. The acknowledgement of your thoughts helps ground you in the present moment.
By noticing your thoughts you shine a light on your present experience. If noticing your thoughts proves troublesome a great technique is to write your thoughts down on paper (or mind map them). Having your thoughts on paper in front of you frees your mind to take in and explore what you have been thinking about. Mapping out your thoughts allows you to notice patterns and connections and deal with anything that requires action. It also allows new thinking.
As part of a meditation exercise a handy tip is to catch your next thought – simply waiting in readiness of your next thought is often quite comical and also helps quieten your mind. When you first try catching your next thought you sometimes find yourself holding your breath – if that happens simply observe your breathing; pay attention to the air moving in and out of your lungs while you await your next thought.
Watching your thinking allows you to take responsibility for your thoughts.
Taking responsibility for your thoughts provides you with the power to make better choices – you can choose which thoughts to explore and in turn your thoughts make your world. If you doubt that your thoughts make your world, consider what might happen if you were isolated – for example, either on a desert island or at the top of a hill or mountain – alone, just you and your thoughts. In that scenario you would be the sole manufacturer of your happiness or unhappiness via your thinking.
At times our thoughts can flood our minds, a bit like trying to pour a litre of water into an egg-cup. Being unaware of your thinking you keep blindly pouring – being aware of your thinking allows you to see the egg-cup and the litre bottle of water and stop pouring.
Next time you get wrapped up in thinking try asking a simple question such as “What am I thinking?”. If necessary, grab some paper and capture your thoughts.
Your thoughts have the power to affect your happiness – you have the power to notice your thinking and change it.