Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Watching My Thoughts

This is a concept that has always been elusive to me. I know that we are commanded to "watch our thoughts," but what does that really mean? I have never understood how to actually watch my thoughts. I would "watch" as unwholesome thoughts would enter my mind and completely take over. Watching my thoughts almost made me feel powerless over them. Like I was just a bystander who could only watch and do nothing to help.

In the last few months, I have learned that watching my thoughts is much more than that. To truly watch my thoughts, I need to actively pay attention to them and then decide which thoughts to focus attention and energy on. It sounds so easy! Unfortunately, as someone who has spent the majority of my life allowing the addicted part of my brain run the show, it has been quite difficult to do this.

In my previous post, I mentioned that the key to this for me is meditation. The type of meditation I have learned is very simple but powerful in learning to watch my thoughts.

The first step in this type of meditation is to choose a passage to meditate on. It could be a passage of scripture, a quote, or any other passage that is meaningful to you. The only qualifications are that it must be long enough to have deep meaning to you, and it must be short enough to be easily committed to memory. I like to use my future picture statement that I developed earlier.

Next, you need to find a comfortable place and time to meditate. You need to be in a place where you will not be easily interrupted, and where you will not get uncomfortable. I like to meditate early in the morning before anyone else is awake. I have chosen my kitchen where I sit in a chair with my hands resting gently in my lap.

Take a few deep cleansing breaths to help clear your mind. Now, slowly repeat the words of your passage. Make sure that each word gets its own emphasis, but that they are still close enough together to have meaning. While you are repeating the passage, pay attention to what is happening in your mind. It will likely get bored fairly quickly and begin to wander. When this happens, acknowledge the thoughts that come into your mind and then gently set them aside and direct your mind back to your passage.

This will take a lot of practice, especially if you are like me and have spent the majority of your life allowing your mind to wander whenever it desires. Begin by meditating for 5 minutes and then as you become more proficient at directing your thoughts slowly increase the time. I have found that 10 minutes of this type of meditation each morning helps me to focus my mind and be aware of what thoughts enter it. I then have the ability to choose which thoughts to give attention to and which ones to allow to fall by the wayside.

With this level of awareness, I no longer have to fight inappropriate thoughts when they enter my mind. I can acknowledge them and set them aside. I am now able to watch my thoughts and choose where to focus my attention.