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Our thoughts determine how we live our lives—right down to the last detail. Researchers have shown, some 95% of our thoughts are repetitive, and 80% negative. This most likely comes from our survival instinct, which keeps us looking over our shoulder for threats.
Think for a moment of your most persistent, nagging thoughts—the ones that follow you around, criticize you, and talk at you every moment of the day.
They may even make you do things you know you shouldn’t do, like over-eat, skip the gym or waste money on impulse shopping. These thoughts, although they’re in your head, are not your own. We all learned them growing up—from our parents, TV, friends, or other influences. Who we really are lies underneath the chatty mind.
We all suffer to some extent from this so-called “monkey mind,” which creates and reacts to the drama of our lives. It’s the narrator in our heads, expecting the worst, fearing, worrying, making assumptions.
Yet on the cellular level, our thoughts are just electrical patterns, shooting across neural tracts in the most efficient way possible. It’s effortless for the brain to think the same thought again and again, while it takes some work to think about a new concept long enough to have original thoughts. All day long we think without thinking—we just float on auto-pilot, in a dream.
This is where mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga entered human history: when people realized we could actually detach from the chatty monkey-mind any time we want, to come back to the moment we’re actually in.
Our thoughts are like dreams, pulling us into a world of our own creation: fears of the future, regrets from the past...everything filtered through our beliefs, keeping us from seeing what really is, right here and now.
Our culture today is convinced that analytical thinking and productivity will save us. There is work to be done—we don't dare sit still. We have become human doings, forgetting how to be.
Those who don’t meditate often believe this skill is difficult to learn, requiring years of disciplined practice, like training in martial arts. What I suggest is that it’s actually much simpler than we think—we’re just too busy thinking about it to experience the benefits...
The famous author Eckhart Tolle wrote: “Beyond unhappiness and happiness, there is peace.”
It really is that simple: like the calm ocean floor, miles beneath the waves--our minds have the same nature. There is a perfect stillness in each of us, beneath our repeating thoughts and habits. This quiet place inside is just as much our nature as those pesky thoughts that follow us all day.
We all experience this inner peace occasionally, usually while doing our favorite things: falling in love, eating great food, listening to music, enjoying a massage, laughing with friends. It’s that inner peace that relieves our stress and makes us feel like we’re okay. We just make the mistake of thinking it comes from outside ourselves.
Here are a few simple ways you can come back to the peaceful place inside, without having to hire a guru or spend years in an ashram.
Let’s keep it simple, Meditation 101:
1. Sit comfortably in a quiet space, remembering this is a luxury—not work.
You've given yourself permission to be lazy—a small vacation from the stress of life: enjoy it. How does your body feel on vacation? How do your muscles soften, your face relax? Let your body remember what it felt like to walk on the beach or lounge in a hammock. Enjoy the sensation of muscles softening like butter.
2. Focus on what feels good in your senses.
Even if you have a headache, tension or pain, there are still countless nerves feeling pleasure in other places... Scan your body, tune into those parts.
3. Welcome to your internal world.
You’re in the middle of your “ocean” now, below the choppy waves but not yet at the bottom. You are a bundle of nerve receptors, feeling stimulation from the world around you. You still have thoughts, but they are more like observations. Narrate less. Listen more.
4. Feel more.
Let your breath expand inside your body—see if you can breathe all the way down into your heels. Feel your body expand with every breath, feel it soften and release tension with every exhale. You can visualize gray or black smoke leaving the body when you breathe out, if it helps to clear the negative energy inside of you. Keep breathing, slower and more fully each time, until you feel a sense of stillness.
5. This is home.
This same peacefulness is in you all the time, below the choppy waters of your thinking mind. Melt further into the lazy indulgence of letting yourself be. Who have you always been, since you were born, through every phase of life? You've been your senses and your breath, only existing in the present moment. Come back here to remember.