If I make any noise I’m in trouble.
It’s 4:30 in the morning. The dogs are sleeping on the floor next to me. The intent is to quietly get out of bed and out of the room without waking them from their deep slumber.
It almost never works.
Within seconds of them realizing I’m no longer sleeping, I feel a cold nose on my arm and a tongue on my ankle as the two dogs, now instantly awake, spring to life, their tails acting like drum sticks beating on the bedroom door.
Often, when I’m still silently resting comfortably before I physically move I’ll be greeted by a different type of animal.
Unlike the dogs, my thoughts come to life more slowly. It’s as if they are giving me time to gain some focus and clarity before they attempt to take that focus and clarity away from me.
I’ve gotten quite good at just listening to the chatter in my head. Honestly, I’m amazed at what goes on in there. I’ve become a curious witness, just observing without getting involved in what’s being said. Just noticing.
My thoughts like to review what lies ahead for the day, any specific tasks or obligations that I need to tend to. My thoughts also have a propensity to provide me with a list of things I should worry about. It likes to tell me what could go wrong by painting vivid images of exactly what that would look like. It’s quite the artist, it’s imagery taking me to places I don’t want to visit.
Maybe it’s the years of subtle yet consistent programming which is responsible for the negative twist the mind likes to put on things. How we look at things is far more habitual than we realize. We don’t even notice. How often do we think about what we are thinking about and why we are thinking the way that we are?
As I’ve gotten deeper into my mindfulness practice I’ve learned a great deal about self awareness. I’m better able to step outside of me and listen to what is going on within me, without beating myself up if I didn’t like what I was hearing. It’s through this self awareness that I’ve been able to pick up any consistent patterns of thoughts, including the negative ones.
Only when you know what those patterns of thoughts are can you ever hope to change them, especially when those thought patterns are working against you.
I can’t seem to stop these thoughts completely. Maybe I never will. They appear much less frequent than they once were. But what I do get to decide is if these thoughts are valid concerns or just my mind doing what I’ve spent most of my life training it to do. I’m fully aware that those thoughts are there, but I don’t have to actually believe them.
The most important decision I make each day is deciding what kind of day I’m going to have. Do I listen to the fear, or do I pivot towards the thoughts which empower me and move me closer to the day I really want my day to be? It’s a choice, but only if you allow yourself to see it as such.
Unchallenged, the dominant thought will always win.
What about you? Do you ever just sit still for a moment and listen to the thoughts in your head? What are you saying about yourself to yourself? Are those thoughts consistent with how you want your days to be? With how you want your life to be?
Habits of thought can be difficult to change, but they can be changed.
First, you just need to know what to change.