I remember being in a counselling session in my early twenties and the therapist said, “Shannon observe your thoughts." ... I was like, what’s he talking about? ... But I attempted to grasp what he meant by watching my thoughts, and to my surprise, while I was thinking, there was another part of me (the witness) observing the thoughts.
This is something we naturally do all the time, without thinking too hard about it. But this time it hit me…… My thoughts don’t define me.
What this therapist was teaching me was mindfulness, a skill that slowly but surely transformed my life in so many amazing ways. That’s what makes us different from animals, the complexity of our thinking. We think all day, every day, and we identify with many of these thoughts and because of the fact that we have them so much, we think that they must be true. Thoughts like “I’m not good enough”, “I’m ugly”, “They don’t like me”. This is what our minds do. They repeat thoughts over and over again until we merge with that thought and then operate from that thoughts level of consciousness.
Mindfulness is a life skill that can help create distance between the self and our consuming thought patterns. When we tune in and become mindful of our thoughts, we start to notice some of the crazy stuff our minds come up with; negative put downs of ourselves and others. By becoming mindful, you can start to notice your own mind patterns. For example, where does your mind like to spend time? In the past (on what’s already happened and analysing it) or the future (projecting current feelings onto an event that has not happened and may not even happen).
Our minds naturally love to think about things, both in the past and in the future. What mindfulness does is it brings you back to the present moment. By being present, we live in the moment. The more time we spend in the present moment, the more we will notice changes in our lives and the deeper connection we have with ourselves and with others.
Mindfulness is not about changing the thoughts; it’s about noticing them, acknowledging them and then letting them go. With everything in life, practise makes perfect…
What are your core values? Chances are, you may have not thought about this deeply or identified what they are for you.
A contributor of personal suffering is when we are not in line with our core values. For myself, one of my core values is spirituality - taking time to connect with my inner world. I am able to do this through meditation, reflection and Qi Gong practices. If I neglect my own core value of spirituality, it creates personal suffering.
Another example of someone’s core value could be the importance of being patient with others. What can happen to a person who holds this core value, is that when they live a busy life with work, social life, kids, etc, they become frustrated and not so patient anymore.
In this scenario, unless this person has done some inner refection on their own core values and identified that being patient is one them, they are going to create personal suffering. This person could start the process of realignment with their core value by slowing down their life, by taking time out for themselves. They could engage in things like meditation, walking, and reading. All of these practices encourage the person to create self-patience first, which in return creates the patience needed for all others in their life. It also provides a growth opportunity to realign with their core value.
Part of the work I do is assisting clients to tap into what their own cores values are. When a client really understands their own inner core value system, this can give great insight into areas of life that need attention.