“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly—you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you.” -Eckhart Tolle
First, we must calm our body before attempting to take hold of the mind. Meditation has been used for thousands of years to help calm both the mind and body. Meditation techniques can include breathing exercises, body scans, half-smiling, mindful walking, sitting meditation, and ‘one mindfully in the moment’ practice. (For more information see my blog post 7 Techniques for Practicing Mindfulness Meditation). Three conscious breaths are a good start, but ideally we should meditate at least 10 minutes before beginning the process below.
STEP 1: Become the “OBSERVER,” the “WITNESS” of Your Mind
Step back and observe your mind without taking every thought or feeling seriously. You can practice this by being curious and interested in what you think and feel. You can also notice your feelings or thoughts without trying to make them stronger, weaker, or go away. Most importantly, notice the story that your mind has created. Then practice stepping back to observe it.
Basically, our mind creates a variety of different stories so thinking about our thoughts as stories to be observed and witnessed rather than reacted to or taken 100% seriously is a critical first step in taking hold of the mind.
The following questions will assist you in stepping back as an observer of your mind:
-Is this problem, situation, or event happening now? Is anything wrong right now?
-How does thinking about this problem, situation, or event help me right now? Can I do anything about it at this moment?
-In the story that my mind has created, what roles do the different people play (enemy, victim, friend, lover, savior, martyr, etc)? What is my role in the story?
STEP 2: Describe What You Observe
When you tell your story to yourself or someone else, make sure to focus on the facts rather than your version of the story. Don’t paint a colorful picture with words, or magnify a situation with words. Only use words to describe your experience.
-Try writing out two versions of your story: one stating the facts, the other expressing all your unfiltered feelings and thoughts.
-Compare the difference between the stories. What do you notice? The story in which you focused on the facts may seem manageable whereas the emotionally based story may seem unmanageable
Remember you can always cope with the facts but never the emotionally based story.
STEP 3: Take a Non-Judgmental Stance
Just focus on the facts. Focus on the “what,” not the “good” or “bad,” the “terrible,” the “should” or “should not.” Non-judgment is a powerful way to take hold of the mind and always leads to more effective solutions.
-Set a goal to suspend judgment for the moment not for the rest of your life. Then step back to observe how this changes the story and your outlook. What do you notice?
-Remember there is really no good or bad but thinking makes it so.
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