How to become a witness to your own thinking
These Mindfulness exercises help you become more aware of the impact your own thoughts are having on you. With this awareness comes freedom.
Consider the different types of thinking you experience. Ask yourself these questions…
Are you aware of your inner dialogue? Are you aware of the conversation you are having inside your own head? The constant chatter, the noise.
What does it sound like? Can you literally hear a voice? Whose voice is it? Are you listening to this voice?
What does it feel like to be aware that there is a voice?
As you become more aware of the internal chatter you have going on try and name it. What would you call it if you had to give it a name?
Problem solving, remembering, reflecting, planning, re-hashing, ruminating, day dreaming, imagining…
Now think about how you feel when you are doing any of the above.
Anxious, excited, concerned, fearful, scared, relieved, annoyed….
As you bring your awareness to the fact that you are actually thinking, consider what it was that you were doing when your mind wandered off. Were you doing something that is routine, predictable, something that you would consider mundane and boring. Or were you with someone you care for doing something you enjoy and you were hijacked by your own thoughts, per say, and totally distracted away from that person or event?
Did you play the association game. Where you were doing something and you smelt lavender and you were suddenly transported to your grandmothers house 20 years ago for example.
How long do you leave for and travel away in your own mind? Was it a few minutes, or did you miss a whole conversation or event?
How often does this hijacking happen, where you find yourself lost in thought to the point where you forgot you were even driving the car, or listening to a lecture, or cooking a meal? How much time do you miss?
As you bring more awareness to the fact that you are thinking. Think about this thinking you are doing and consider if these thoughts take you into the future, or back in the past?
How productive is all that thinking? Do you solve the problems? Do you make yourself feel better, or worse?
Now be aware of how much energy all of this thinking takes up. How exhausting it is to constantly loose your focus and be transported back in time. How exhausting it is to be living with a low grade feeling of fear or angst.
Learning about changing perspective is powerful when learning Mindfulness Meditation. Training the mind is about changing our relationship to the passing thoughts and feelings. Learning how to view them with a little more perspective and when we do this we naturally find a place of calm. This short video is presented by Andy at Headspace. Andy Puddicombe is the co-founder of Headspace the popular Meditation app.
How can you put all of this knowledge that you are thinking into practice?
Here is an example of how you can begin to train yourself to notice you are thinking and return instead to the present moment.
So now consider that you may be lying in bed trying to fall asleep, but you can’t because you are stewing over something.
It's almost like the thoughts are a ball you are playing with…you just can’t stop tossing it from one hand to the other, the thought goes from one hand to the other. backwards and forwards.
But there you are. Lying in bed. Your bed. Hopefully in this moment you are actually safe, secure, warm, not needed by anyone else. Ready for what the body needs, sleep. But no, you can’t sleep, because you are in the middle of an extreme debate, in your mind, why did you do…..why did she say…..if only you had…..maybe next time you will……
This is the time to literally say out loud "STOP".
You are being bullied. You are trying to go to sleep but there is someone playing a really loud speech over a mega phone. How could you possibly fall asleep?
What can you actually hear, with you ears….literally. What sounds can you hear in the room? Is there white noise, an AC unit, or the gurgle of water in the pipes in the house?
Listen, really listen. What can you hear outside your bedroom, in the rest of the house. Name the sounds as you hear them.
Oh no….its back…that voice, the one going over the conversation, you are back playing with the ball of thoughts, tossing them from one hand to the other. You have been hijacked again.
What can you smell….literally what can you smell in the room? Do you have clean sheets can you smell the washing powder on them? What does it smell like? What does your room smell like? Is it a familiar smell?
It’s back….the thinking….You were listening and then smelling, but now you are thinking.
And there you have it. This is awareness. You noticed you were thinking.
You are now actively becoming aware that you are leaving the moment you are in and being carried off on the thought river….sailing through the day and the past. The day has passed.
Be in the bed.
Feel the sheets.
Focus on your breath. Breathing in the air is cool, breathing out the air is warm.
IN and OUT. Breathe.
Notice where you feel the breath in your lungs, in your throat, in your mouth.
Here comes the thoughts, taking you away. Its OK. Don’t judge it.
Don’t struggle with it. Be proud that you are now aware you are thinking and time travelling. That's not sleeping. You are trying to sleep.
Go back to focusing on breathing.
IN and OUT.
Invite sleep. Surrender to the sleep. Allow your body to let go, and relax.
Sleep. IN and OUT. Sleep. IN and OUT.