Watching your thinking takes alertness and presence; being aware of your thoughts is similar to reviewing a dream once you wake up. Detachment, stepping out of the dream you can instantly see the reality of being awake as opposed to the dream. In the dream you follow your thoughts, even believe them – they are convincing – on waking you can see the dream as a dream.
I’ve created this mind map to summarise some ideas for stepping out of total absorption in thought. Your thoughts can pull you into a story whether real or unreal; yet the moment you shine a light on your thinking you can come back to the present moment and harness clarity and perspective.
Here are the six stages summarised in the mind map – by no means exhaustive; yet they will help you observe your thinking.
1. Note – Alert, Aware, Awake
It takes alertness to watch your thinking – simply by noticing your thoughts you have achieved this.
2. Observe – Once you have noted your thinking you can begin to observe your thoughts. What type of thoughts are they – old, new, emotions, repetitive etc. Observing your thoughts gives you far greater opportunity to deal with anything you need to address.
3. Allow – Accept, welcome, explore
Rather than battling your thoughts, if you welcome them, better still, write them down using a journal or mind map, you can begin to work with your thinking rather than against it. It took me years to understand the difference between what I “think” and what reality is. I “thought” that if I had a thought it must be real or true. From the moment it sinks in that this is not the case your life begins to change. A subtle point, yet allowing thoughts in rather than opposing them is crucial to remaining positive and happy. Let the thoughts in – you don’t have to believe them; you can process them or let them go.
4. Watch – Train, Associations, Links, Know
When you begin to watch your thoughts you see they are like a constant “train”, each thought could be a carriage that would like your attention; wants to draw you in. Thoughts love associations and links; it strengthens them; enforces the story – your mind chatter depends on it! When you “know” you are thinking you have detached from being absorbed by the chattering train of self-talk.
5. Detach – Imagine Thoughts are Clouds Hovering
Having welcomed your thoughts and allowed them in, you can sift the ones that are helpful from the ones that aren’t and begin to detach from any thoughts that do not empower you. Because you are letting thoughts come and go and not battling them you can see how temporary they are; fleeting thoughts like clouds passing in the sky. Apparently we have approximately 60,000 thoughts a day. How many are repetitive? How many do you attach to? How many can you let go of?
You can instantly see that you must be choosing which ones to explore from the 60,000 thoughts each day – and that is the key to watching and dealing with your thoughts. You have the power to observe your thoughts. Your thoughts have the power to cover up your happiness – let the sifting begin!
6. Release – Let everything go!
Once you realise your thinking holds the key to your happiness you can decide what thoughts to let go of. In a sentence that sounds simple; in reality it takes constant vigilance, awareness and alertness to notice your thoughts. With practice you will begin to notice your thinking more and more and gradually the thinking process almost feels reversed. Instead of your thoughts running you and you being drawn along with occasional moments of clarity you’ll have more clarity and occasional distractions of thought. If you imagine your thinking to be like reading a book – when you are head down you are absorbed in the words, head up you have clarity and detachment. Observing your thinking almost becomes like anticipating your next thoughts as they arrive.
I hope this mind map and the explanations above help you.
Please feel free to leave comments or questions below.