Some thoughts feel heavier than others. They stick in my mind and demand my attention. If I’m trying to do something else, it doesn’t matter, they scream at me until I give in and listen attentively. They’re not very polite in their mannerisms.
Most of the time the content of what they’re saying is quite negative. It’s always something along the lines of “you’re not good enough”, “you’re not doing enough”, and “you don’t have enough”. You can attach those ‘not enough’s’ to anything; relationships, career, friendships, and self-work all come under fire. They weigh me down as I get caught in negative thought loops. And just like the rotten apple in the bowl that spoils the whole bunch, one negative thought can quickly infect all other thoughts.
So how do I keep myself from having a head full of garbage? It’s a work in progress. I did, however, start to make significant headway after beginning to take the principles behind meditating more seriously. This isn’t to say that I’m an every day meditator (although I do try to do it at least a few times a week). It more so means that the concept of allowing my thoughts to ‘just be’ without attaching myself to them has been particularly helpful for me.
“But what do you mean a thought is just a thought? All of my thoughts are truth.”
As I mentioned, some of my thoughts are negative. I’m used to the feeling of allowing these negative thoughts to consume me. I live in that attachment state. Needless to say, the idea of just letting thoughts be as they are and come and go seemed far outside of the realm of possibility for me. Session after session, I’d sit down and close my eyes and try to achieve the feeling that everyone talks about in the books I’ve read, podcasts I’ve listened to, and friends who take meditation a bit more seriously than I do.
I found myself going through the motions, feeling good afterwards, but still caving in to the negative dialogue. I took it as a sign that maybe my inner voice was too strong. It obviously speaks the truth that I’m not good enough and yes, it may be hard to hear but it’s a fact. But I kept trying this whole non-attachment thing. I continued to read the books, listen to the podcasts, and talk to the people who seemed to have a hold on it. Most importantly, I kept trying to give the negative thoughts less space to make their case.
Equal space for equal thoughts.
One day while meditating, an image came to mind. I pictured all of the thoughts surfacing as little bubbles, escaping between the folds of my brain. One bubble was no different than the next as they popped up; wanting to clean my shoes later that day appeared in the same fashion as the desire for things to be different with a person I really care about. Just bubbles of equal size. Where they differed, however, was in my immediate reaction to them. Almost instantly, I assigned the situation with my friend as being of high emotional importance and began to blow the bubble up with air until it took up all of my conscious space. I felt myself become sad as the familiar feeling of heart ache set in. I found this to be interesting because I never realized that this whole time I had been supplying the negative thoughts with the air they needed in their lungs in order for them to bellow out their agenda to me. Behind it all, I was the puppeteer; both the victim and the villain.
It was in this moment when something shifted. I began to see that I had more control than I imagined. Every thought starts out the same. It’s only when I react to them and assign emotional weight that they begin to take over. I started to apply this awareness to my thoughts, both in and out of meditating. And although I’m not at the point where I can completely refrain from blowing a bubble up until it’s about the explode and get stuck to the sides of my brain, I can remind myself that other things need some air too.