Bringing mindfulness to our thoughts
Today we explore new meditation mindfulness of thoughts. This is a more advanced practice where we actually turn the spotlight of our attention to the flow of thought itself, observing thoughts as they come and go, just like sounds.
We often relate to thoughts as if they are our reality, rather than a mere representation of our reality. We can spend our whole lives imprisoned by our own self-limiting beliefs and unproductive thinking patterns. Practising mindfulness of thoughts enables us to observe thoughts rather than be completely pulled into their storylines.
We can’t control what thoughts arise in the mind, but we can decide how we relate to these thoughts.
This new understanding can literally be a life-transforming shift that gives us so much more freedom. It is a powerful realisation that can set us free from the prison of our own limited thinking and self-awareness.
The practice of becoming mindful of thoughts can be difficult at first. In the previous meditations the object of our attention was more tangible, like feeling the breath, or body sensations. Thoughts are much more elusive and can be difficult to observe without getting pulled into their content.
As we become more mindful of thoughts and realise that thoughts are real but not necessarily true, we develop more capacity and freedom to choose how we respond to thoughts as they arise rather than be automatically driven to act upon them.
Here are a few metaphors that give a helpful way of thinking about the mind as we move into the mindfulness of thought practice:
The mind is like a stage
Our awareness is likened to a stage, constantly there in the background, unchanging. Our thoughts which continuously come and go in the space of the mind are likened to the actors moving on and off stage. When meditating on thoughts, the idea is to take the observer position, imagine yourself sitting in the audience and witnessing your thoughts come and go like actors on a stage. As we practise more regularly we strengthen our ability to maintain an observer position even in the midst of difficult thoughts or emotions.
The mind is like the sky
The sky is boundless and clear, like our awareness. Just as clouds come and go and can obscure the clear sky, so to thoughts come and go and can obscure the clarity of the mind.
- See if you can locate the space from which thoughts arise.
- Listen to your thoughts like you are listening to the radio. Are there repetitive stories or is the content different each time?
- Notice the type of thinking that arises. Is it planning, problem-solving, judging, worrying, fantasising?
- Try counting your thoughts and observe what happens to them.
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"If we wish to be healthy, happy and clear-minded, we need to upgrade our “inner technology”of attention to meet the demands of our increasingly complex world. That's where mindfulness comes in.."
- DR ELISE BIALYLEW
about the HOST AND FOUNDER OF
MINDFUL IN MAY:
DR ELISE BIALYLEW
Elise Bialylew is the author of the bestselling book, The Happiness Plan, and founder of Mindful in May, the world’s largest online global mindfulness fundraising campaign.
A doctor trained in psychiatry, turned social entrepreneur and mindfulness expert, she’s passionate about supporting individuals and organisations to develop inner tools for greater wellbeing and flourishing, and offers workshops and training at The Mind Life Project.
Her work has been featured in the Huffington Post, New York Times and on Australian Television. She was recently recognised by the Australian Financial Review as a 2019 AFR Women of Influence.
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