Out of all the things you can do to make life easy and to reduce your suffering, altering your thought patterns is probably the most rewarding thing you can do.
The problem is that we all have a history. Everything that has ever happened to us is etched in our biochemistry. Especially those things that we had to bear without being able to express ourselves in response to those actions.
So if a parent said mean things, and you couldn’t get angry or cry or express your reaction, that expression is held in your muscles, festering.
And what ends up happening is we get sick, or someone comes along who does something or looks like someone from the past, and we foist those feelings on to them. We can’t see straight. The filters of the past follow us every day of our lives.
How do we move beyond this? How do we see the moment exactly as it is without laying our filters on to it? It takes practice. Meditation helps. Anything that helps us to slow down and be conscious of our actions and the consequences of those actions helps.
At some point, it will make a huge difference in your life if you eliminate some of the most common causes of suffering that have to do with our thoughts. Two that come to mind are comparison and judgment. The third is denying reality. And the fourth is ruminating.
Have you ever participated in an event and found yourself comparing yourself to others in the same event? It’s human nature to do this, but it’s usually very hard on us. We most often end up feeling less than. Which leads to a sense of sadness and depression. There is no real value in comparing yourself to others.
Guys are notorious for doing this. For most of my life, I would walk in to a room and unconsciously look around at all the guys and figure out who I could beat in a fight and if there was anyone that might pose a danger to my health and well being.
Similarly, judging things you see is something our ego does to create a sense of safety. If we can put things in a box, we can eliminate the possibility of getting hurt, getting broadsided. We call people names, and then we feel comfortable. “He’s a moron.” “Black people have smaller brains.” “Those with blonde hair and blue eyes are a superior race.” More things have been done, mostly terrible things, by labelling a whole group of people as being less than, or more than.
Judging lets us put others in a box. Once they are in a box, we can move forward.
And the last one is my favorite. Denying reality. I was just on a safari in Southern Africa, and we went on a “Rhino tour”. After walking for 2 hours, one of the guests said to the tour guide “so where are the rhinos”, as if he would know the answer. And 10 minutes later he was saying out loud, “if I don’t see rhinos soon, I’m not paying”. Didn’t he realize that we all wanted to see rhinos? That the tour guide was an expert in finding rhinos and was doing the best he could?
So much of the news media is judgement. There is usually a reality,ie, something that actually happened, and then there our opinions and judgment about that event. None of it is real. It’s the egos attempt to stay safe by trying to make sure we know for certain the reason for what happened.
The last one, rumination, takes up a large part of our mind’s time. Rumination is thinking about something over and over. To spend a long time thinking about “what would happen if? And then what? And then what?
The best solution for ruminating is to gently decide to focus on your breath and your sensations. Feel the air going in and out of your nostrils. Notice any colors, thoughts, sensations that arise. It immediately takes you out of your mind and back in to your physical body.
Practice these this week. Let me know if you need more explanation or clarification on any of the above.
John William Johnson