This post is from the Breathe Yoga & Wellness March 2015 Newsletter…
“Do I have to change my thinking?” I’m so glad you asked! Because I hear this all the time. The short answer is no. And what a relief! People often confuse the approach that I use with having to change their thinking (by the way, a summary of this approach from last month’s newsletter can be found here). What’s more, much of counseling centers around getting the client to change his/her thinking. Good luck! And as the one trying to change, it’s very easy to get frustrated when you notice that you’re not “doing it right.” The approach that we’re talking about here might sound like we’re changing our thinking, but there’s actually a subtle yet very important difference that’s worth pointing out today. And I think that this difference makes things much more simple, fast, and powerful. All you have to do is switch radio stations to the good one that’s built-in. Let me explain…
What we’re saying here is that there are two ways of thinking. One is the ego/chatterbox and the other is your built-in wisdom/common sense. That’s it. It’s like you have exactly two channels on your radio dial, and you’re tuned in to one of the two at any given time. So instead of trying to upgrade and improve the chatterbox, you can just switch in an instant to your wisdom/common sense. It’s already upgraded to the max. It needs no improvement. And it’s built-in. Much easier. So now there’s no pressure to improve anything. Just switch stations and then get out of the way. Bam! And you get better and better with gentle practice.
So how do you know which station you’re listening to? This is the cool part. As I mentioned last month, your body will tell you. (Warning: you are about to understand feelings better than most psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors. Seriously). How your body feels is your built-in guidance system to let you know the quality of your thinking in that moment. Chatterbox/critic/over-analyzer or inner wisdom/common sense? Just notice how you feel! So this is huge… this means that feelings are not separate “things” from thoughts. Feelings are simply the body’s reaction to your thinking. You are “feeling your thinking” 24/7. Your body cannot feel the world directly; it’s just not wired to do that. Feelings are an inside job. Your body can only ever feel how you see the world. And by “thinking,” I mean conscious thinking, unconscious thinking, perceptions, beliefs, whatever. Anything going on in your head. How you are seeing things in that moment. And most of it is invisible as opposed to the voice in your head.
A few comments are appropriate at this point. One is that switching to the wisdom/common sense station is more of a receptive process than when you are trying to “figure it out” with the chatterbox or the intellect. I simply ask, “What should I do now?” And then I relax as best I can and wait. I listen, with no demand that an answer come. Usually what I need to do pops right up, and if not, that’s okay – just do your best and keep practicing. Don’t judge it. Also, the answer often comes in the form of a feeling as to what to do or not do next. This is much different than me trying to think my way to peace or to a solution. Trust me – I tried to do that for the last decade! And then I tried some more just to be sure. It doesn’t work. There’s something built-in that’s more intelligent than your head, no matter how smart you are. And this is a guy with two math degrees talking! The heart is smarter, and I never thought I’d be saying something like that. Ha! And the heart will let you know when it’s time to use your head to figure something out. Maybe at school or at work, for example. Most adults live in their heads all the time, though. That’s too much, and that stressed-out feeling we all know so well is proof.
A second thing is to reiterate that this is something that you simply practice. And you don’t have to judge how you’re doing, because that’s usually more of that inner critic voice, which is exactly what we don’t want. Just keep practicing, very gently. Switch stations the moment you notice you’re on the chatterbox station. Simply relax and ask your common sense what you should do now. A big breath often helps, too – the body will start to release any contraction pretty quickly the more we allow it to do so. The ego station is weakened each and every time you gently do this, whether you notice it or not. You’ll definitely notice after a while of living this way, though.
A third thing is that there are times when earth life is painful. I’m usually not laughing at funerals, for example. When I understand the role of thought and perception in relation to how my body feels, though, normal feelings of sadness or frustration or whatever will pass through much faster than they would otherwise. They don’t get stuck. My wisdom reminds me that this is a normal feeling, and there’s nothing wrong with it. The same is true when I’m just in a low mood. Not a big deal. Let it be there, and let it pass. I’ll glance at my thinking, though, to see if anything comes up that I’m worrying about, for instance.
When my clients and friends start to really get this, it’s just amazing to see. That’s why this job is so rewarding. Wow. This approach epitomizes teaching a person to fish versus giving them a fish or two or three. There are some great fish out there, but learning how to fish by yourself is really where it’s at. I’m so excited to be able to keep this conversation going with you, and please know that this understanding of how the mind works is deepening in me all the time, just like it’s deepening in you. In fact, someone once said that this approach is “an inch wide and a mile deep.” Let the deepening begin!