Pause for a moment and analyze: isn’t it true that when we are suffering we are actually lost in unsettling thoughts? Obsessive thinking and identification with thoughts is the primary cause of suffering.
The practice of mindfulness meditation and mindful living allows us, first of all, to notice that we are thinking all the time. By creating a detachment that enhances our aptitude to objectively observe the activity of the mind, this practice gives us the ability to realize the omnipresence of thoughts. It makes us better able to notice that the brain is an unstoppable and independent thought-producing machine, thus the saying, “The mind has a mind of its own.” Mindfulness practice gives us opportunities to analyze the nature of thoughts, and realize that they are completely random and ephemeral mental formations.
With practice we begin to notice that thoughts appear spontaneously, and that we don’t know and cannot know what our next thoughts will be. We begin to notice how surprising they can be. We notice their impermanence — how they arise and pass away — and come to the conclusion that we have no idea about their origin or destination: we don’t know where thoughts come from, and where they go when they are no longer present. All these realizations are very liberating and lead us to see that 1 – thoughts are not real and 2 – we are not our thoughts.
Mindfulness practice teaches us to recognize thoughts simply as transient appearances in our consciousness, which ultimately gives us a great resource for a better life: the ability to understand that we have some selective control. We realize that we can choose not to allow ourselves to be carried away by unsettling thoughts, and that we can choose which thoughts deserve our attention and which ones we should simply let go.
Mindfulness also gives us, during those moments of suffering, when we notice that we are lost in upsetting thoughts, the ability to simply say to ourselves, “It’s just a thought!” In other words, it gives us freedom. It liberates us from being dominated by unwholesome thoughts.
This ability of noticing thoughts, letting some of them go, and redirecting the attention to the present moment is liberating, stress-reducing, and life-enhancing.
Humans, unlike other animals, spend a lot of time thinking about what happened in the past, or might happen in the future. Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University conducted a study and concluded that “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost. A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” Yes, the untrained and untamed human mind spends an immense amount of time ruminating and anticipating, but the good news is that we can train our minds. The practice of mindfulness meditation and mindful living can reduce mind-wandering, bring us back to the here-now, and enhance happiness.
Recognize the benefit of saying to yourself the following phrases and say them often: “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”