If you’re really struggling with altering your thinking try setting it up more in the first place. Make a list if you have to. Instead of thinking thoughts about your own wants and desires try spending the day by thinking about someone else instead of yourself. As soon as you finish thinking about Sara start thinking about Ali. Just leave you out of it for a day.
No comparing them to you. No judging their actions. You want to get into their head. What do they have to think about from their perspective? Really consider who they are and what motivates them–they’re dreams, fears history, circumstances… and then look at their life to see evidence of those thought patterns. Seeing it in someone else will help you see it in yourself.
You can even do this with your dog. Have you even noticed it has different barks for different things? And if you know that, do you know the barks themselves? Likely not. But if you stop and meditate on it a moment you realize that even babies develop separate cries for their priorities–hunger, external discomfort, internal discomfort, pain and joy and love. Well your dog’s the same way. It’ll have a set of barks for everything important to it: food / water, outside / inside, fear / concern, excitement / happiness. So the dog’s been clear all along. It’s up to you to shut down your own thinking and start communicating better.
Another time you’ll think too much is when people are talking to you. Stop thinking about your distractions from–or your opinions about–everything they say. Just stay quiet. Listen carefully for subtle differences in their voice. Make sure you get the eye colour of everyone you speak with today. Become more aware. You think it’s small but this is it. More awareness equals more opportunities for joy and learning.
Imagine what your spouse might be having to think about at that moment. Imagine some of the strangest and most difficult parts of your teacher or boss’s life. Learn something new about someone you’ve known for a long time. You can even do it with relative strangers. What’s it like to be on crutches, or at a funeral or late? It doesn’t matter how you get there, but as soon as you’re thinking about someone else you’re also preventing yourself from creating an ego that will then suffer.
If you don’t think you into existence you won’t be there. That’s why amnesiacs are like that–they can’t find their own thoughts to think. So their awareness is still there but their opinions are not. They don’t know who they like or don’t like, nor what foods are their favourites and they’ll even fall in love again with a spouse they’ve already divorced. It shows how powerful an opinion can be if we take it too seriously.
Your “problems” emerge from your thinking. Try to cut back on your thinking. At the very least, every day make a gentle shift towards interrupting one painful thought and replacing it with one more loving thought. Even catch just one. Your mind will get better and better at the catching and increasingly your daily mindful awareness will evaporate most of your ego’s “problems.”
Remember: today you don’t think about you. Put some post it notes up if you have to. But today isn’t about you, it’s about others. So don’t spend any time spinning thoughts about your life. If you’re going to think at all take some time to think like someone you often judge. And if you do it seriously, expect to feel humbled and open and wise and… better.
Increase your perspective. Me, I, You, Them, Us, They… are all myths. Avoid those words in your vocabulary both internal and external and you will be healthier and happier regardless of your external circumstances. Now go have a great day.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.