This article was last updated December, 2017.
note: we link to our free guide to mindfulness and meditation at the end of this article (no email required)
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 makes this exercise even harder. But, even without the picture, you would most likely 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 your behavior (decisions, actions, reactions). 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 contents of your mind!
Thoughts are just thoughts. They come into being, exist, and cease - provided you don't build a story around them which perpetuates their existence, and gives rise to more thoughts. 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
*Our free guide to mindfulness and meditation has been shared more than half a million times - go read it and find out why (no email required).
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (the precursor to CBT)
"An owner's guide to the mind"
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