Where do thoughts come from? Who generates them? What is this non-stop narration that we hear in our heads? Who does the talking? And who does the listening?
After a great performance of his band, my son was joyfully and justifiably relishing in the praise. He was celebrating, feeling really good, and having a great time. His band opened for another, and it was a great concert! Then, something happened that caused an interruption in those good feelings and spoiled that moment for him: he was accused of something he didn’t do: stealing beer from one of the venue’s many bars! Evidence was brought to light, and soon things were clarified, proving that he hadn’t done anything wrong. The beer had been given to his band before the concert, and was in their rehearsal room. That’s where he took it from after playing the opening act and coming to the floor to watch the rest of the concert. Those who accused him quickly apologized with great sincerity, and even gave him a gift as a compensation for their hurried misjudgment: more free beer!
Now, rather than returning to the enjoyment of the present moment, and taking in the joy of a great performance, my son kept ruminating the accusation, totally ignoring all the good he had recently experienced, and could be experiencing still. He had a difficult time letting go of the accusations and redirecting his attention to the good that came out of it — a sincere apology and a gift — proving, one more time, that “the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, and like Teflon for positive ones.” He kept repeating to himself, “How could they think this of me? Who do they think I am? I would never do that! I am hurt.” But, in reality, who or what was hurt? His image? His reputation? His ego? And what are those things if not mental constructs, if not abstractions, if not thoughts, just thoughts in other people’s minds?
And who is this “I” that was hurt? The self, the ego: what is that if not a mental construct, a narrative of a life that we keep retelling ourselves?
Time to think: “Why does blame stick for such a long time and praise wash away so fast? Why do we retell negative stories and not so much the positive ones?”
Do not get stuck in the quicksand of what is negative. You can get out. Actually, with some practice, getting out of this quicksand becomes quite easy. There’s no need to retell painful stories. There’s no need to relive upsetting emotions. You can choose! You can remain their prisoner, or you can liberate yourself by simply saying, “It’s just a thought. And I’m not my thoughts.” Give them a shoulder shrug, and move on, of move back to the present! Enjoy what is good in your life, right here, right now, without magnifying what is bad.
Remember that everything comes and goes. One moment gain, the next moment loss. One moment pleasure, the next, pain. One moment praise, the next, blame. Everything is impermanent, and nothing stays the same. Conditions are changing all the time. Remember that the past is gone. And what is the past if not a thought in the present moment, right? Let it go.
It’s just a thought! And I’m not my thoughts!
You can choose. If you are going to get stuck, get stuck in the territory of the good events and good feelings. If you are going to retell stories, choose to retell the pleasant ones. This a training for you. Practice to notice what is good, pleasant, and positive in your life.
Notice them. Appreciate them. Savor them. Absorb them.
Practice to retell the good moments of your life and be grateful. This is going to activate new neural pathways in your brain that will predispose you to notice more often all that is good, which in turn will enhance your positive outlook, optimism, and the quality of your life.
So, whenever you are accused of doing something wrong, either repent and apologize if you have actually done it, or, if not, say to yourself, “I know who I am. I know the ground where I stand. I know what I did and what I didn’t do. I will listen to those who accuse me first, and then I will speak my truth quietly and clearly, hoping to clarify the situation and be understood. But if I’m not, there’s little I can do. If I’m unjustly condemned, so be it. I have no control over other people’s judgments. If people choose to think bad of me and spread falsehoods about me, so be it. I have no control on what other people think, say, or do. Whatever others think of me is none of my business. I know who I am. I know the ground where I stand. I know what I did and what I didn’t do. The people who know me and care about me, my true friends, know who I am. And those who doubt my integrity and character, don’t really know me, and are not truly my friends. If they depart, there’s no loss for me; only for them.” Say it, and move on in peace.
So, there you have it: a suggestion on how to mindfully respond when people falsely accuse you, misjudge you, or spread falsehoods about you.
Remember Dr. Seuss’s quote: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
In the middle of those uncontrollable situations, may you be able to give a shoulder shrug, accept, let go, and move on in peace.
“It’s just a thought. Thoughts are not real. Thoughts are just thoughts. Thoughts think themselves. The thought of a thing is not that thing. The mind has a mind of its own. I am not my thoughts.”
Piero Falci is an author and educator who believes that the inner work that leads to personal awakening and transformation is indispensable to create a wholesome world. He is an explorer of the mysteries of life who loves to observe, reflect, and write, and who not only strives to live a life that matters, but also hopes to inspire others to do the same. He is a promoter of peace who believes in advancing the idea that Heaven is here if we want it to be. He teaches mindfulness meditation, mindful living, and the acclaimed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program as taught at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He organizes Silent Peace Walks.
Take a look at these books at the Peaceful Ways online store
– “Peaceful Ways – The Power of Making Your Wishes Come True”
– “Pay Attention! Be Alert! Discovering Your Route to Happiness”
– “Silent Peace Walk”