Thoughts are kind of funny things. They can seem insignificant, inconsequential, something that happens, beyond our control. And they are the sleepers of life: wildly powerful.
Where our thoughts regularly go, so do we.
It’s not about “thinking positively!” all the time or never again having a “bad”/negative thought. (I’ve tried that way — it’s an uphill battle that doesn’t end well). Rather, I’m finding it’s about seeing my thoughts for what they are: things floating around in my head. And things I can choose to keep front in center in my mind…or let float on by (and then they usually kind of dissolve if they’re not fed with mental energy).
I used to think meditation was dumb — a buzzword, something only really healthy and spiritual people could magically master. I now think it’s a useful tool and take time for it every day. I guess it’s not only for “really healthy and spiritual people” (maybe that picture is just an ideal of some kind of “perfect” or maybe we’re all already those people — we just forget that we are). In any case, the turning point came as I got desperate to feel something other than tired and crappy all of the time, and I started to consider that maybe the point wasn’t to get rid of every “bad” thought — it was more about noticing the thoughts floating by. And simply noticing as more of a spectator than a participant in the game.
I found that as I practiced noticing, little by little by little (and this has taken several years now), my head actually is feeling quieter. I like how it feels (less frantic and all over the place). As my mind feels less muddy and frantic, I’m finding it easier to sit with uncertainty, make fewer reactive decisions, and snap less at other people (and myself). Then when my head starts to feel all buzzy and fuzzy, cloudy, muddy, and frantic again (and it happens), it’s getting easier to settle the muddy mental water by sitting for a few minutes and getting quiet myself, and then noticing what’s going through my head.
Our thoughts are powerful. Making a regular practice of something like meditation (or whatever you want to call getting quiet that doesn’t feel cliche) can be hugely impactful. And our kids seeing a regular person they know giving it a try? Maybe it will help them consider it, too.
If you like data and research in addition to anecdotes and ponderings, check out these links on the power of meditation (thanks, Marie Forleo!):
–The Washington Post: On the work of a Harvard neuroscientist and how meditation can change the brain.
–Time: A study showing meditation can lower our risk for stroke and heart attack.
–The Atlantic: On meditation and our ability to be compassionate.