For most of us, one of the most difficult challenges is our relationship with our own minds.
Our minds are crazy places, and each of us has no choice but to live with our own minds each and every day.
The crux of mindfulness and meditation is learning how to be in a better relationship with our own minds.
To put this in the simplest of terms, thinking mean, negative and critical thoughts is hurtful to ourselves, and learning to choose what we think is the best way to not avoid it.
In some ways this can seem selfish. Only thinking about what we want to think about?
Well, if choosing what we want to think about is selfish, then I will state right here that I am in support of being selfish.
We are each responsible for taking good care of ourselves. We each have a duty to ensure we feel safe in our own bodies and minds. We can only accomplish this by being choosy about our thoughts.
And of course, I don’t believe choosing our thoughts is selfish at all.
I actually believe it is generous, because we are often mean and reactive to the people around us because of the judgmental thoughts in our own minds.
I remember a time when I was walking to the pool to take my kids to swimming lessons, and my own mother was with me.
At that moment, as we were entering the building, I was feeling critical with myself for always being too early. I was berating myself that my obsession not to be late now meant that my kids would be waiting in their swimsuits getting cold before their lessons.
While my mind was attacking me, my mother asked me if I wanted her to get me a cup of tea.
I immediately barked at her something about not wanting tea right now.
She was completely taken aback and couldn’t understand why I was reacting that way to her kind offer.
Of course, my reaction had nothing to do with her offer to get me a cup of tea; it came from my own stressed out state from being under negative attack—from myself.
This is why we need to be diligent with our own minds.
When our minds are full of negativity, listing everything we have done wrong, it’s hard to be present in the moment and enjoy the experiences in front of us.
If we make the choice to be in the driver’s seat of our own life, then we can choose what we want to think, instead of letting the mind run on auto-pilot with the same self-critical thoughts it has been playing forever.
This is what I mean about being selfish with our thoughts.
We need to ask ourselves constantly, “What do I want to think about now?”
Maybe we want to think about a response we need to give our boss tomorrow, or plan our next holiday.
But maybe these topics are actually stressing us out, we really want to notice the color of the trees or spend some time with our own breath.
It’s not that there is one thing that is better or worse to think about; it’s that when our thinking is on auto-pilot, we often ruminate about things that don’t make us feel good.
We think about how ugly we are, how much more money we need and how no one loves us.
Are these kind thoughts to have? Do they make us feel good?
They definitely don’t for me.
The moment we catch ourselves in old, habitual thought patterns, we become mindful. And this is the good news; this means we are now aware of where our attention is.
This is when we can make a choice.
A choice to think about something different. Or not to think at all, but instead to see what there is to see, or hear what there is to hear, or just breathe.
Being selfish in our thinking is the kindest thing we can do.
When we are busy having negative thoughts all the time, we end up treating other people in a negative way.
By making a choice to come back to the moment, out of the craziness of the mind, we calm down our entire nervous system, and we are better able to show up for whatever challenges inevitably come our way.
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Ryan McGuire/Gratisography