How often are you aware of your thoughts? Did you know that you can harness the power of your thoughts to make positive changes in your life?
Consider for a minute, how you accomplish any mundane task. You focus on it, you think about it, plan it, and take action to bring it to fruition. This is straightforward when it comes to things like getting groceries, or doing the laundry. Your thoughts and actions are all centred on the task at hand.
Now consider what you do if there is something bigger, something more abstract that you want. Say you struggle in your relationship with your teenaged daughter. You’re stressed because she’s becoming more and more sullen and withdrawn. You really wish she would go back to that lovely being she was a few years ago. You wish you could feel closer to her.
I may be totally wrong, but perhaps you’re like a lot of frustrated parents who spend a fair amount of thought energy dwelling on how she’s currently behaving. Perhaps you complain to your spouse or friends about how sullen she is. Maybe you even get angry with her when your patience runs low. In this case, your thoughts and actions are NOT centred on what you want.
Every Thought Matters
“We can no longer view ourselves as isolated from our environment, and our thoughts as the private, self-contained workings of an individual brain….. As observers and creators, we are constantly remaking our world at every instant. Every thought we have, every judgment we hold, however unconscious, is having an effect”. (Lynn McTaggart)
This quote is describing and summarizing the stunning implications of some of the latest scientific findings.
If we acknowledge this new science, it becomes imperative that we learn thought awareness and control if we want to contribute to our personal and collective improvement.
In other words, it’s not enough to just passively wish for something!
What comprises the majority of your focus? Are you even aware of what you are thinking as you move through your day? If every thought effects our world, the question one has to ask is ‘What am I thinking about all day’?
Becoming Aware of Your Thoughts
One way to become aware of your thoughts is to practice body/sense awareness. Here are a few mindfulness exercises to foster this ability:
1) Set intentional practice periods of 5-10 minutes two or three times a day. During these mini-meditations, endeavour to keep your focus somewhere in your body. Perhaps become aware of your torso moving as you breath. Let your thoughts be, as they come up, but maintain conscious awareness of them by naming them as they come up. The idea is to stay aware of them, but not to get carried off by them!
…….for example, if you become aware that you’re thinking of what to make for supper, simply say ‘planning, planning’ — and then return to watching your breath.
2) Set a gentle alarm to go off periodically during the day as a reminder to check in with your thoughts (if that makes sense in your daily environment).
3) Start keeping a thought journal.
There is no need at this point to change your thoughts! Just becoming aware of them is enough for now. After doing these mindfulness practices for as little as a week, you will begin to see patterns in your thoughts. This can be a very enlightening exercise!
Harnessing the Power of Your Thoughts
Now that you have an awareness of the general content of your thoughts, you can begin to see if they are helping or hindering your reality.
The next logical question becomes ‘How do I harness the power of my thoughts for personal and collective improvement?’
What do you want to change in your life? To continue the example above, say you’re horrified to admit that you really can’t stand to be around your daughter, yet you grieve the loss of closeness you used to have when she was younger.
Now, take a look at your thought patterns in your journal. Are you often thinking negative thoughts about her or about the state of your relationship with her? (Remember to be gentle with yourself! This process is a learning opportunity, not the time for self-flagellation!)
“Your brain takes whatever you focus on as an invitation to make it happen”. (Bill Harris)
Let’s return now to the process of getting the laundry done. What if we could apply this same process of focusing…. thinking…. planning…. and taking action…. to changing our relationships? To changing our world?
What if you switched the focus of your thoughts to a positive, curious, compassionate view of your daughter, and then allowed those thoughts to dictate your actions? What if you began talking something like this:
” I can see she’s really having a hard time right now. Life must be so tough for her, with school and peer pressures, and raging hormones. She is wanting to become more independent, yet she’s still at the whim of teachers and parents. I’m really going to focus on trying to understand life from her point of view. I’m going to intentionally make myself available for conversations when she’s around. I really want to build a closer relationship with her. I love her! I know that underneath all the moodiness, there is a beautiful young woman brimming with passion and potential, and I’m going to find her!”
Changing Your Thoughts CAN Change Your World
I am speaking in this post not only from my own study and research, but from direct experience. I thought those very thoughts about my daughter. And I transformed my relationship with her. It took a lot of patience, a lot of time, and a lot of focus. And now I enjoy being with her, and our relationship is close and loving — and yes, she’s still a teenager! 🙂
The implications of this new science are astounding. We have more ability to effect our world than we ever knew in past generations.
Our thoughts matter! Don’t become a prisoner of your thoughts!
If you are struggling with relationships, stress, anxiety, depression…… how might your point of focus be working against you? If you can become aware of your thoughts, you have the potential to change your experience, and your world – one thought at a time!