Studies have shown that roughly 90 percent of our thoughts are negative, and 95 percent are repetitive. The National Science Foundation confirms what most of us already know about how we are affected by thoughts. Ask anyone who has just started meditation to get relief from their mind how well it’s going. Every person I have helped to learn to meditate has said some versions of “this sucks” initially. Our minds are usually not a happy place to live.
As we look around us, we see the repercussions of our negative, repetitive thoughts constantly. We are in a relationship with the same type of unavailable partner over and over, or we haven’t been able to commit to a relationship at all. We find ourselves resentful about the work that we are doing but are afraid to move to the next step in our career. We feel isolated and dissatisfied and experience the most relief from having some drinks, looking at our phone constantly, or binging on TV shows.
Why is the mind so negative and repetitive? Why do we feel so uncomfortable, stressed, frustrated, etc.? Simply because at this stage of human evolution, we are lost in ego. When I say ego, I am referring to:
1) Forgetting who we are on the fundamental level of awareness (spirit), which is where freedom lies.
2) Complete identification with the mind chatter, which is what causes our suffering.
Notice that I said that we are “lost in ego”; we wouldn’t want to “get rid” of ego even if we could. Ego is certainly not a bad thing. Ego means “I.” It is the sense of who you are. When someone calls your name, it is quite useful to know that they are speaking to you. It is also helpful to have self-worth and protect yourself, even if it is just psychologically. We absolutely need an ego, but the problem is, we think that we are only the voice in the mind (ego) – this overemphasized sense of “I” (ego) makes us selfish and fearful.
The Practicality of Spirituality
It is interesting to me that spirituality has become known as “woo woo” or impractical today. Yes, there has been a lot of nonsense associated with spirituality, but waking up is:
1) Remembering who we are, which is present awareness (spirit).
2) Letting go of unnecessary thought that is causing suffering in ourselves and to others.
3) Learning to operate from our fundamental nature as awareness, rather than living through thoughts only.
I would suggest that living as a spiritually awakened person is the only practical way to live. It is the only direct way to be free of the enslavement of repetitive, negative thoughts that seem to “happen to us.” When we bring awareness and clarity of mind into life’s situations, we start to find sustainable peace and genuine direction.
What you can start to practice right now that will completely transform you (and your life) is:
1) Learn to witness and be the awareness in which thoughts happen, rather than being completely lost in mind chatter.
2) Learn to accept what is happening rather than arguing with what already is. When you catch yourself saying some form of, “I don’t like this,” let it go and be present.
3) Practice substituting selfish, limiting thoughts, which is some form of “what’s in it for me only,” with thoughts that are in alignment with what is best for (both) you and the rest of life. Ask yourself the question, “What do I love?” “What is my heart telling me?” And at the same time, “What will serve others?” The ego thinks what you love and what is helpful to others are in conflict with each other, but what is ultimately best for you and others is the same. If you look at your past, you will see that this is the truth.
Developing the power of choice
When we begin to become mindful and aware of the ego’s chatter, we start to choose how we can direct thought for the first time. Rather than thoughts happening to us, we can think in ways that align with who we are and how life actually flows.
Let’s use an example:
You have a quarterly review with your boss. She tells you several areas where you need to improve.
1) The first thing that happens is you notice a reaction in the mind. Rather than being taken over by the reaction, you witness it. The reactive thought that is noticed is, “I work really hard, and I am not appreciated for what I do.”
2) Rather than being taken over by the reaction and speaking to her from defensiveness, you let go and accept what is happening. You pay attention to your breath, notice your body against the chair and your feet on the floor.
3) Then substitute a more realistic thought, which is, “She is doing her job by telling me what needs to be improved. I can’t argue that considering what she communicated could help me be more effective in my position. We are on the same team, she is on my side, of course, she wants me to succeed.”
After bringing awareness into the situation and seeing things more clearly, you suddenly say, “Thank you.” You experience a lightness and an appreciation that you did not feel before. You have also given yourself space to allow more intuition and wisdom to come into the situation.
If we want to live consciously and create a life centered on passion and love rather than fear and frustration, it is imperative to bring awareness into thoughts rather than believe them to be the absolute truth. We must witness thoughts, become present, and think realistically. The good news is, looking at things more realistically rather than through the ego-mind will always take you to a better life.