You are not your thoughts
From the moment you wake thoughts start to flood your mind. It can be very easy to get caught up in your thought, but you are not your thoughts. In fact, your thoughts are a reflection of a past experience that has been stored in the brain. In traditional yoga we call these “samskaras” which are impressions of the mind.
Regardless of their origin, a thought can evoke an emotion that can impact you physically, mentally, or emotionally.
In this modern world we are continuously bombarded with external stimuli, we spend a lot of time caught up in our own mental chatter. When the first thing you do in the morning is to reach for your mobile phone to scroll through the news, it’s not surprising that this will set the agenda of your mindset for the day ahead.
When your mind is busy, you cannot always think clearly. This leads to panic, overwhelm or anger. These emotions can be irrational thoughts that don’t always make sense. Thoughts that will often look at the worse-case scenario activating the stress response.
A thought is something physical that lives within the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is also the area of the brain that is responsible for your personality, social behaviour, your planning and decision making.
In Buddhism, Right Thought is the second step in the 8-fold path that defines a thought based on either words or pictures that can rise to feelings and or actions.
Everything that you experience in life, every conversation or observation that allows you to make any decision, to think, feel or want creates a response that is put into the brain by the mind. This creates an electromagnetic response. As soon as your brain receives this response, proteins are created. It is these proteins that cluster together and grow into ‘trees’. The data stored becomes a memory which sits in the hippocampus area of your brain.
In traditional yoga we call this memory bank, this warehouse “Chitta.” The impressions can live in your memory warehouse for a very long time. The ancient Yogis believed these impressions can be carried through different lifetimes.
There’s an analogy you may be familiar with ~ “when you plant a seed of thought, and then water that thought, it gives it power. The thought begins to grow, and it will become your reality.”
All our interpretations of the world stem from our personal, past experiences, that are drawn from our “chitta” memory bank.
Learn to understand your thoughts
This analogy highlights how powerful the mind really is.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the thinking mind and be taken down a spiral of thought. As Ram and I like to define this as “creating your own movie.”
If this is a path of negative thinking it can lead to physical and mental experiences of anxiety, stress, and depression. A feeling of unhappiness.
Thoughts tend to be based around past events, or the mind is looking to the future, fantasising the perceived outcome of an event. A decision you are waiting to hear about. Or you will re-run the same thought in a different scenario! The thing is, you don’t know how it’s going to unfold. The only thing you can control is what is happening right now. In the present moment.
Sometimes an action can trigger a Samskara you didn’t know we had. But suppression of these thoughts and emotions is not the answer. If they remain unexpressed, they cause blockages in the flow of the mind. Left suppressed they cause pain, unhappiness and disturbances in the mind.
Changing the way you think.
“Your calm mind is your ultimate weapon against your challenges. So Relax.” Bryant McGill
If you want to change how you step out into the world, then you have to change the way you think. This means learning to understand the patterns of your mind. Identifying and challenging when negative thoughts arise, especially the thought patterns that keep you stuck and are holding you back in life.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and adapt to a new experience. Science has now proven that through practices like meditation and mindfulness and positive mindset practices you can in fact re-wire the brain decreases the stress-response and become less reactive to your emotions.
Here are three practices you can implement into you like to change the way you think.
1. Self-judgement around past events
All the judgements you pass in your life, none are more important that the ones you have of yourself. A lot of self-judgement is inherent from previous experiences in your childhood, from your parents, the interactions with teachers, all the stimulus from what you see and hear around you.
Know that these are just thoughts. The more you talk or think about yourself in a negative way the more you will believe it. Don’t allow negative thoughts to control and you from enjoying the experience of living a happy and fulfilling life. The emotions that you feel around the thought are only temporary, they will pass.
When you find your inner judgement rising….
Take a breath. Look at the movie you are telling yourself and ask yourself;
What is this about?
Why do I feel this?
Where does this come from?
Is it serving me?
It’s often very helpful to write these observations down.
Focus on the positives about yourself. Notice if you start to think negatively. Instead, exchange this negative self-judgement for more loving, kind, and positive thoughts.
Say thank you and accept gratitude when someone pays you a complement or shows appreciation towards you.
Treat yourself with the love, kindness, and the compassion you would give to others.
2. Planting seeds of positivity
Plant the seed of positivity in your mind. You can do this with an affirmation. When you repeat affirmations, it helps to bring more positivity into your life.
In traditional yoga we use the Sankalpa. A Sankalpa is a short positive present tense statement, that you can repeat to yourself throughout the day.
Just like an affirmation, a Sankalpa can be used in daily life. It is an incredibly powerful tool that helps to support inner and outer change. Therefore, it is important to develop the right Sankalpa for you and your own individual circumstances.
You can create a Sankalpa by picking an area of your life, like home, career, family, health or relationships.
Often, we develop a Sankalpa around something we would like to happen or how we would like to feel. It is always worded as a short, positive sentence, e.g. “I will be in good health,” or I am happy and healthy.”
You can repeat it mentally to yourself in the morning upon wakening, during the practice of Satyananda Yoga Nidra, or write it down and place it somewhere you will see it regularly.
3. Antar Mouna Meditation
Meditation is about developing awareness. You are aware that this is happening. And once you are aware you can look at aspects of your life a little deeper, through a different lens, without any attachment.
Meditation does not require you to switch off or suppress your thoughts. Rather through yoga nidra and self-enquiry meditation practices like Antar Mouna (Inner silence) Meditation it allows you to understand your thoughts and their origins.
Returning to our gardening analogy! Meditation allows you to remove the unwanted weeds in the mind. If you just break off the top of a weed, the root remains and the weed returns. There is some temporary relief but the weed is still there and over time it will grow back. You have to dig deep and pull out the weed at the root.
“Antar Mouna enables you to exhaust these unwanted thoughts, these weeds and clear the mind. Once you remove these tensions of the mind you will begin to experience more energy, inspiration and life begins to take on a new dimension. Your decision-making will come from a place of clarity rather than reaction.