“Being mindful is not a matter of thinking more clearly about experience; it is the act of experiencing more clearly.” – Sam Harris
Most of the stress we face in our lives is due to habitual, reflexive thought patterns. These thought patterns are not useful or productive and often lead to distress and anxiety. One way to free yourself from destructive thought patterns is to practice a simple form of mindfulness: observe your thoughts instead of getting involved in their content.
Try this experiment: simply observe your thoughts for a while. Where do they go? Do you think about the things you’ve done in the past, or perhaps consider the future?
This, of course, is all perfectly natural. People spend a lot of time worrying about the future and brooding about the past. It might not surprise you that these thoughts aren’t doing anyone any favors.
The problem, however, is not caused by the worries themselves. Rather, because you identify with these worries, they dominate you—and your emotional state. So, when you’re stressed out, you don’t think “I am now aware that I am experiencing certain feelings of despair,” but rather, “Oh my God, everything is terrible, and there is no way out.”
But there is a way out: by employing the meditative technique of mindfulness, you can separate your thoughts and worries from your identity. Instead of thinking, “I am anxious,” you think, “there is anxiety in my body.” The difference is subtle but also very powerful.
When you meditate, you become aware of the contents of your consciousness—your impressions, feelings, and thoughts. Not only do you become aware of them; you also begin to recognize that they don’t represent reality. They are merely constructs of your mind.
It’s like watching a horror film: if you allow yourself to become engrossed in the film, then you’ll be more likely to be constantly looking behind and jumping at unexpected noises.
However, when you remember that it’s just an image on a screen, the horror will lose its power. You may still be frightened, but you will have more control.
By Jon Brooks at highexistence.com