Being mindful of our thoughts
Mindfulness has been at the forefront of my mind this past week, mainly because of something I heard on the radio at the beginning of last week.
It got me thinking as to what mindfulness actually is.
The Google definition is:
- the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
- a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
What interests me about mindfulness is not the meditative side, although it’s an integral part, but the part that our consciousness plays. The part which involves our thoughts, our thinking and how we think.
It’s like when someone tries to remind you of a situation when you were together in, but, you can’t recall a part or any of it. It’s as if you were never there. In truth, your attention was somewhere else, you weren’t present in the moment and your mind had drifted. You weren’t in control of your mind or your thoughts.
It is a sense of awareness, of being conscious and in the now, that was not there.
What does “being conscious” actually mean? Is it a state of being, a way of thinking or something else?
Let’s start with you, right now – what are you doing? Are you just reading this article or is your mind straying away at some unfinished job or bit of work you still have to do? The email to write and send, cleaning out the fridge from the out-of-date food and drinks, cleaning the bath after washing the cat or dog – or maybe that addictive game that you can’t seem to get away from?
You’re not “in the moment”, in the “now”. You’re allowing your thoughts to stray. Can we control all our thoughts all of the time? Theoretically, yes we can. In reality, our thoughts will stray when we have unaccomplished or unfinished things that need completing, when worries and fears play on our mind.
Well, I’ve got a message for you – you’ll never be finished. There will always be something else to do, to get done, to accomplish. Which means that your mind will, theoretically, always stray. There will always be a play going on.
The point is not that your thoughts will stray; it’s what you pay attention to and focus on that is the point.
Being conscious is being aware of your thoughts at any given time. This is not something that’s easy to do, which is why so few people actually make the effort.
But when you become aware you begin to notice what you are thinking about and you will begin to take control of your thoughts.
Where’s your attention Now
We can’t help but to think. It’s what we do. Our brain is designed for this process. It’s what you think about all the time, consistently, that makes the difference.
On a day-to-day basis, your focus should be on the matter at hand. Your thoughts on what you are doing at that moment in time, on the present, on the now.
For example, whilst writing this article I’m focussing on doing just that, writing the article. This is whilst the dog runs around because it’s windy outside (primitive fears) and the building work going on down the street. My focus remains on the matter at hand. I give concise answers where I need to (like my wife asking about dinner – acknowledging the question, acknowledges the person; it says I care), but my main focus is this article.
Your thoughts and ideas dictate the direction that you’ll take in your life. We truly become what we consistently think about and so your thoughts should be on that – the direction you want to go in, what you want, not what you don’t want.
It becomes fundamentally important, therefore, that we’re consistently aware of our thoughts and the direction that they’re likely to take us. We need to ask ourselves what would happen if those thoughts were to become a reality and actually happen.
Now, if that thought is of being wealthy, having a better relationship, a better job, more money, or any other similar idea, the question is whether that idea brings on feelings of worry, stress, fear, anxiety and all the other negative feelings we can experience or positive feelings of excitement, joy, happiness and looking forward to whatever it is that we want happening for us.
It may sound odd that we could feel negative for something that could improve our life, but it happens. The negative feelings we experience are related to our beliefs, particularly those involved with whether we can have it and whether we deserve it – our self-image.
Being mindful, being aware, being conscious of our thoughts and our emotions gives us an insight into ourselves, our beliefs and our fears.
Being Conscious, being Mindful
The hardest thing to accept is that we’re responsible for the life we live and have. We made all the choices up to now, even if it was to make no choice it was still a choice. You can never “sit on the fence”, because, that alone is a choice.
When that’s done, we can look at where we are now. Being conscious to our thoughts, at any given time, puts us in control of ourselves. When we also acknowledge the feelings that go with that thought we get a better idea of where we’re at.
Every thought that we have has some emotion, some feeling attached to it. Go outside and brush your hand against a plant you like, and you’ll find that you have an emotional connection to it.
On our veranda, we have a plant pot with basil in it. When you brush it the scent rises and hits your olfactory senses. There’s a sense of calmness that comes with that.
Every thought creates a sensation with it. What the thought is and the sensation it brings with it is where your focus should be. This is being conscious, being mindful.
Being present and in the now, means letting go of the past and the possibilities of the future, and focussing on what needs to be done now so you can create the future you want.
It’s also about appreciating the present and being grateful for what we do have, however little, small or uneventful it may seem.
No one ever lived in the past and created a different future. In the same way, you cannot live in the future without being present and acting in the now.
All change begins with an awareness of where you’re at – your thoughts, your feelings, your state of mind. You have a place to start from. The destination is always a choice of thought – Your thoughts at this moment in time.
If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
Always hold fast to the present. Every situation, indeed every moment, is of infinite value, for it is the representative of a whole eternity.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.
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