Last updated December, 2016.
Here is this weeks installment of "Question and Answer Tuesdays!"
"I want to be able to eliminate my bad, destructive thoughts. Is there a certain type of meditation I should practice to help me do this?"
This is a variation of the most common misconception that exists when it comes to meditating: that you are supposed to stop thinking.
Meditation is not about eliminating certain thoughts, clearing your mind, or developing the ability to control what you think. If you try to do any of these things, you will meet with frustration and quickly give up your practice.
To Renee's specific question, the "Ironic process theory" states that if you deliberately try and eliminate certain thoughts, you will actually think about them more.
For example, try not to think about a pink elephant.
Okay, including a picture of one at the top of this article wasn't fair. But, even without the picture, you would probably be thinking about a pink elephant right now!
Trying to suppress thoughts, trying to force yourself to think only positive thoughts, and trying to completely stop your mind from thinking are fruitless ventures.
The good news is, you don't need to do any of that!
Thoughts are just thoughts. It isn't the content of your mind that matters, it's how you let it affect you and whether you act on it or not. This is where meditating can help, provided you practice equanimity when you do it. Equanimity dictates you view all thoughts impartially, and not label anything as "good," "bad," "positive," or "negative."
Exercising a non-judgmental view is key to realizing the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, so learn to stop judging the content of your mind!
Thoughts are just thoughts. They arise and pass, provided you don't attach to them and try to make them permanent (i.e., "get lost in them" or build a story around them). And, provided you don't try to cling to "these" and push away "those." Your mind constantly attempts to do this, and labeling only makes it easier:
When you meditate, strive to notice your thoughts without prejudice. Strengthen your awareness, and see them for what they are: temporary phenomena that come and go, like clouds in the sky. Instead of getting caught up in them, you can choose to simply let them pass by.
Thoughts are just thoughts. They hold power over you only if you let them. They hold power over you if you blindly follow them wherever they lead.
Unfortunately, people generally go through life like this - they operate on autopilot, being led around by their minds. As a result, their daily existence is mired in what we refer to as "the struggles of life":
> A lack of focus
> Endless worry
> Sleep issues
> And on and on...
Mindfulness and meditation help you escape these struggles.
"The only reason your mind won't stop its endless chattering is because you won't stop listening to it." - Guy Finley
I want to read more of your writing.
I want to find out about "An owner's guide to your mind."
I want to find out about awareness-based behavior therapy.
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