I'll start by saying that I'm not a stranger to the idea of our thoughts creating our experience or the idea that we can separate ourselves from our thoughts. I've read plenty of books on mindfulness, psychology, Buddhism philosophies, along with practicing meditation on and off for two years. I like to think that I'm "enlightened" to some degree, but I still continue to get amazed by the concepts that knock me off my feet.
I was sitting in meditation this morning, per usual, observing my thoughts and focusing on the gap in between the thoughts. The purpose of meditation is to be an observer of the thoughts, not the thinker. We can see the thoughts occur, potentially engage with them for a moment, and then gently release them.
So, I'm sitting there, when I had this dream-like thought about Zac Effron. I just saw the movie "Mike and Dave need Wedding Dates" last night, so he was clearly on my mind. (Side note: Definitely go see that movie, it was hysterical). Anyways....I had this vision of him coming into my office and having a conversation with someone. I engaged with it for a moment, then realized I was in thought and pulled out of it. I said to myself "Well, that clearly wasn't a real thought" since the chances of Zach coming into my office are extremely unlikely.
And then it hit me... None of our thoughts are real.
Just because my usual thoughts don't feature A-list celebrities doesn't mean they are real. Just because I'm having thoughts about myself, a situation, and others that are actually present in my life at the time doesn't mean they are real. Stay with me.
For example...say you're having an argument with your best friend. I'm sure there's plenty of mental chatter going on in your own mind about the situation. "She's just doing that because she knows it will hurt me." or "He's so self-centered and won't even take the chance to put himself in my situation." But...is that really true? Or is it something you came up with all on your own based on your previous experiences and beliefs?
I'll share a personal example. I've wanted to branch out to become a life coach for quite some time now, but I always thought "I can't do that," "I don't enough life experience," and "No one would want to pay to work with me."
We all experience these thoughts of fear, doubt, shame, judgment, anxiety, etc. when we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations. Our ego's generate these thoughts in effort to protect us from pain. But, the problem with these thoughts, is that they seem so much more real and scary then they actually are.
"If I stop working out as much, I'll gain weight and people won't love me."
"If I tell him how much I like him, he's going to think I'm desperate and stop talking to me."
"I can't tell my boss that I don't like his idea because he'll think I'm being too pushy."
I know I'm not the only one here. We all deal with these thoughts, no matter how spiritual, positive, or enlightened we are. The difference between us is how we handle these thoughts. Do we think of them as facts and engage with them? Or do we observe them from a distance and let them wash over us?
It's easier said than done. But, the first step is to realize that your thoughts are mere figments of your imagination, created solely by your individual perception of a situation (which, you have control over). The next step is to start observing what thoughts you're actually having. Meditation and journaling are my favorite for this. As you get into the habit of becoming more mindful of your thoughts, you'll be able to disengage from your thoughts much faster. It takes time to develop the skill, but it's oh. so. worth. it.
But, enough about the work we have to put in, let's talk about the empowerment you should be feeling now! If your thoughts aren't real, that means they can't control you. If your thoughts are created based solely on your own perception, you can actually control them.
When you have negative chatter in your head, do yourself a favor and try and challenge it.
Say you're at a new job and really struggling to understand a task. You can start thinking "I'm so bad at this. My boss must think I'm so stupid." You can quickly observe that thought and say to yourself "Wow, that was a pretty negative thought. I'm going to get better at this. My boss knows this is new to me and wants me to succeed."
What's even more empowering about all of this, is that the more you challenge your thoughts to think more positively....the easier it is to think positively. Our thoughts are really just habits. "We are what we continuously do," and we are what we continuously think. I can honestly say that since I've made the commitment to mindfulness and positivity, I am genuinely a happier person. I am thinking positively 80% of the time without even trying.
So, I invite you to take your power back. De-mask the monster. Turn the lights on. You get the gist. Stop letting your thoughts control your emotions and your experience, because..they aren't even real.