Most of us spend a great deal of every day thinking negative thoughts that make us feel downright terrible inside. These thoughts and judgments also tend to damage our relationships with those around us. As shown in recent cognitive studies, and as great spiritual teachers have known for thousands of years, most of our emotional problems and sufferings have their birthplace not in the outside world, but deep within our own minds. If we want to reduce our emotional suffering, instead of blaming the outside world for all our inner agonies, we need to look within for the solution.
During most of your waking day, a stream of thoughts and related memories and imaginations flow constantly through your mind often provoking upsetting feelings. Most people assume this stream of thoughts and images cant be stopped, its just part of the human experience. Indeed, the prevailing belief is that theres very little we can do to change the thoughts that dominate our minds, let alone temporarily quiet those thoughts altogether.
Recent cognitive research and world meditation tradition prove otherwise, we can indeed act to quiet the chronic thoughts and images that push our emotional buttons and generate our negative mood swings. One of the goals of meditation is to temporarily manage our mind so that we quiet the flow of thoughts and shift into the relatively blissful inspired state that naturally arises when were not disrupting our experience with disturbing thoughts.
My colleagues and I have studied the underlying psychological process common to all the worlds meditation traditions and have developed one of the most effective ways to quiet the minds habitual mental agitations. The technique is based on information culled from new discoveries in the cognitive research field and insights into Buddhist and Hindu meditative traditions.
The first step in this process is to pause long enough to notice whatever dominant thought is chronically running through your mind, generating all the upset feelings in your body. Youll probably find that youre angry or upset or dejected about something that happened sometime in the past. This is probably something you are still judging as wrong or bad, or is a premonition of something terrible that could happen in the future. Whatever it was that happened to you in the past, and whoever did it, ask yourself this crucial question: can your upset thoughts about what happened in the past ever change the past? Or indeed, are you actually fighting reality itself?
In truth, the past is over and done, you cant change it. All you can do is judge it as wrong and refuse to accept it, or choose to accept the past, forgive what happened, and let it all go. You do have this crucial choice to keep on judging the past, or accept it and move on. Thats what forgiveness and emotional healing are all about: accepting reality and breaking free from the grip of the emotions you&Mac226;re still provoking with your negative thoughts about the past.
Once youve acknowledged the thoughts that are upsetting you, and chosen to accept and stop judging the world (and yourself as well), youre ready to actively shift from cognitive thinking mode, into a more peaceful, intuitive, present-moment inner experience. Based on the best available techniques of meditation and cognitive quieting, heres how:
First of all (and you can do this even while reading these words) focus your minds attention inward, toward the actual physical sensation of the air flowing in and out your nose or mouth (pause and experience)and now, while you stay aware of the air flowing in and out your nose or mouth, expand your awareness to also include the movements in your chest and belly as you breathe (pause and experience)and now, expand your awareness another step to also include the feelings in your heart, right in the middle of your breathing (pause and experience)and as you remain aware of your breathing, and your heart, effortlessly expand your awareness to include your whole body, here in this present moment (pause and experience) also tune into the sounds around you the space in the room just relax and experience being fully right here, right now (pause and experience).
When you consciously shift your minds focus of attention entirely away from the past-future fixations of your thinking mind, to the present moment experience of your sensory awareness, all thoughts naturally become quiet, you at least temporarily pop out of all the torment of the past and worries of the future, as you fully enjoy the beauty and power of the eternal present moment. The more you practice making this shift in consciousness from thinking to experiencing, the better you'll get at it. Your choice. Go for it!
John Selby is the author of Quiet Your Mind (InnerOceans Publishers; 2004). The book teaches new techniques for calming upsetting thoughts, and tapping the vast intuitive and experiential realms of consciousness. For more information, seminars, further reading and audio guidance, visit www.johnselby.com