Finding a way to navigate negative thoughts.
I only know what it feels like to be me, and so it’s difficult to know whether everyone else shares the same experiences, but I’m guessing I’m not alone in the fact that everybody’s mind can at times be a cess pit of worry and anxiety.
I use that descriptive term because that’s how it can feel. Despite being on the spiritual path for decades and doing years of meditation practice - and having cultivated a general demeanour and life experience of calm and peace - there still remains a vortex of negative energy within me that can feed off scraps and hungrily magnetise even the simplest concern into a shitstorm of anxiety.
I used to be terrified of this aspect to my mind, but over recent years we have become much better acquainted. And, for the best part, we have reached an ‘understanding’ - in that it stands under I - and I used the word I rather than me deliberately.
The biggest change came about when I started to actually listen to what it was trying to tell me. Rather than shun it, block it, or drown it out with a multitude of distractions (alcohol, food, tv…).
Often, it was only trying to warn me of something that it perceived to be a danger and threat. This in-built ancient survival mechanism that has kept us humans alive by searching the environment for new experiences or predators that may potentially be life threatening.
Or, it was simply doing what it had been trained to do at some other point in my life. In my younger years, I may have taught myself to worry and over analyse something in order to achieve a certain outcome. In that moment, with what I knew then, this request may have produced a positive result. The mind has then logged and stored it as a useful device to call upon again. Now, though, that programme is still running because it hasn’t been told not to.
There is a saying, ‘the mind makes a wonderful servant but a terrible master’.
The mind actually relishes being a servant and having boundaries. Left to its own devices it runs riot and causes mayhem, but given a role and a task to do it will be quite content to be playing its part.
Often the mind’s noise is an attempt to get noticed. It’s a cry for attention. We learn this as babies, and it usually works to get us what we want - food, love, attention.
So now, when it is starting to clamour for attention, I listen to it. I acknowledge it. I talk to it. I ask it what it is trying to tell me. And more often than not, it is just frightened and concerned and wanting to warn me of something it perceives to be a threat.
The mind can actually be very reasonable once you develop a relationship with it.
Now that isn’t to say that it doesn’t run away with itself at times, and spiral into unreasonable fears, worries and anxieties - often manifesting in me as neurotic thinking and even hypochondria - but more often than not it responds to kind, gentle, acceptance.
It’s not often taught to us in this way, but a thought is just a thought. In and of itself it can’t do very much to harm us, unless we feed that thought and give it energy.
So, while it can be useful to engage with the mind as described above, at other times it can be enough to simply acknowledge a thought and allow it to pass on just as quickly as it came in.
Thoughts are powerful.
They are things.
They can be wonderful things.
They can be horrible things.
We manifest through them - for better and for worse.
But, they get their power from the energy we give them.
It’s a daily discipline. An hourly discipline even. You could even go so far as to say it is a moment by moment experience.
We need to be a vigilant master, and utilise great awareness to recognise the quality of thoughts that are passing through our minds. With that awareness we are easier able to detect the patterns at play within the mind. We learn to identify differing moods and energies that we experience, and we then learn to allow them to come and go with gentle acceptance.
Ram Dass calls this - loving awareness. A gentle watching of the mind’s activity relinquishes its grasp and hold over us, and soon enough the energy moves from the head to the heart. A warmth and a tingle in the area of our heart will open up when we detach from the thoughts more and more.
A good friend of mine would often say to me, ‘think with your heart and feel with your mind’. It’s a great way to live life. It beautifully inverts the way we have been taught to live our lives - which let’s be honest hasn’t worked out too well for the human race looking at its combined ill health and epidemic disease. Living from the heart helps us in every way.
The mind finds it difficult to hold anxiety for long in the face of love and loving awareness and gentle acceptance.