Meditation teaches us how to observe our thoughts from a different angle. During meditation practice we also start to notice the same old stories that come up time and time again. These may be things like “I am not good enough”, “I need to get a new job”, “Why am I still single?”- the list goes on.
Whatever story we tell ourselves will be influenced by our frame of mind. If we feel a bit down in ourselves the story will be negative, whereas if we feel happy then the story will have a more positive story line. This fact alone tells us we can’t take our thoughts as facts. This weeks exercise asked for us to pay attention to the stories we tell ourselves by using the following guidelines:
Notice how your mood influences your interpretation of an experience.
Become aware of your posture, paying particular attention to your jaw (is it relaxed or clenched?) and your hands. How are your shoulders? Notice expressions: are you frowning?
Tune into your body and become aware of any sensations that are arising in response to the story (and then notice if new thoughts arise about those sensations). Of course, there may be none.
When you become aware of a recurring thought, it can be helpful to bring some lighthearted humour to naming it: For example, thinking “ANXIOUS ANNIE IS HERE AGAIN!” will help you to distance yourself from your anxiety.
Are you feeding a particular story, maybe playing sad songs when the story is negative and encouraging feelings of sadness to manifest? We may not be able to control our thoughts but we can control how we respond to them.
Notice the feeling tone of your thoughts as these can be helpful indications of your current state of mind.
Exploring the body and physical manifestations of the thought and/or emotion can be a helpful to disengage from the “doing” mind. We can also use the breath as a way of shifting our attention away from a particular focus. We do this all the time when we meditate, but we can do it when we are doing about our daily life, as well.
- I felt a bit stressed out and my mood was a bit all over the place. I was texting my friend and they replied to a message with a very short response. I interpreted that as “maybe they’re angry with me?”, “why are they being so short?”. I started to jump to conclusions and make up a scenario in my head.
- My posture at the time: I was frowning.
- I started to feel anxious and my breath got a little faster.
- “JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS IS HERE AGAIN”
- By not asking my friend if anything was wrong I was feeding into my story and giving myself more time to make the story even bigger. I responded by sending even more messages as I was starting to become even more anxious. With every message sent and no reply received, I was feeding into my story. If I had changed my response and asked if anything was wrong then waited for a reply, I would not have become as anxious.
- The next time this scenario arose I waited for a response from my friend and focused on my breath until they responded. There was nothing wrong with them in the end. They were busy driving and could not reply in big essays.
- The feeling tone of my thoughts were anxious. This reflected how I was feeling all day. I was a bit stressed out with college work and it definitely showed in the story i developed inside my head.
What story is headlining within your head this week?