You either believe what you think or you question it. There’s no other choice.
Staying on our theme of love for this week, I want to share something I’ve been practicing that I learned form Loving What Is by Byron Katie. I’ve only just begun the book, but this one thing is something I’ve already found to be helpful in my daily efforts to remain the free, happy me that I am. We all want to be more free right? Free from the the ways (e.g., habits, ego, past fears) that we lose the beauty of individual moments as we get lost in regrets about the past and worries about the future.
One of the first exercises that Katie walks the reader through involves, in part, the question: What if you didn’t have that thought? It doesn’t matter that I give you the exact example from the book….honestly I don’t remember it and I’m listening to the book on Audible, so it would take me forever to find it. So let me just explain what I got from it.
Consider one of your habitual thoughts that always keeps you worrying about how someone else is going to judge or wrong you. Maybe the thought is something like, “He never listens to me,” or, “I wonder what she thinks of my new job,” or, “I’m so nervous about my presentation…what if everyone laughs at me.” We all have them. Pick one of yours. Got it? Okay.
Now, close your eyes, imagine yourself in exact same situation that led you to have that thought and imagine you didn’t have that thought. How does it feel to not have that thought, to not have all the worries and stress that follows it? If it seems impossible to even consider, try this: Imagine a fictitious person (we’ll call him/her Sam) in the same situation. Sam never has had that thought you just had. How does Sam feel? Sam probably feels much happier and much more free to just be Sam.
Katie isn’t saying that we can stop having certain thoughts. On the contrary, she says that,
Thoughts just appear. They come out of nothing, and go back to nothing, like clouds moving across the empty sky. They come to pass not to stay. There’s no harm in them until we attach to them as if they were true.
Her point is that we don’t have to attach to thoughts.
So I’ve been trying this out. During regular days I’ve been trying it out, while at work, at yoga, walking down the street, meeting new people, etc. Here’s what I’ll do. I will notice a thought that is one of my worry thoughts or fearful thoughts. (It’s worth noting also that this act of noticing thoughts ties in so nicely with what we’ve been practicing through the study of Singer’s The Untethered Soul.) I will then imagine that I just didn’t have that thought…that it is a thought that has never crossed my mind in just the same way that an alien language would never cross my mind…it’s just not a potential thought for me to even have. Or, if it’s easier, maybe I’ll imagine I’m Sam and I simply never think like that.
I have to say, the effect is instantaneous! When I don’t attach to it, the thought just drifts away like so many clouds in the sky. The worries and fears tag along and they just aren’t there. I have to work to find the worries and fears again, like trying to grasp for a balloon string as it drifts upward. When I just let it all drift away, I actually feel a bouyancy too, a greater lightness.
I’m going to keep up this practice and see what else I discover. How about you? Why not try to be Sam now and then. Try to imagine you didn’t have those thoughts of yours either. Feel it all drift away. Feel it. ….
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