It’s Sunday morning and you’re relaxing, enjoying a cup of coffee outside on the patio relishing the sounds of nature, giving your busy mind and body a break. At least that was your intention. But once again, your thoughts are getting in the way of what seemed like a good idea at the moment. Worries about forgotten or unfinished tasks flood your brain.

“I have to call Aunt Martha,” you remind yourself. Or you chastise yourself for forgetting bananas. ”How could I forget them when they were on my shopping list!” Or forgetting to make a doctor’s appointment. “Don’t forget. Don’t forget. I always forget.” Or you debate texting Susan; “Should I be the first to make amends or just wait until Susan texts me back? If she EVER texts back.” Then, of course self-recrimination for eating, “I’m so mad at myself for overeating last night. But it was sooooo good! The diet starts tomorrow!” 

And, right down the rabbit hole you go. 

Try this…For the next moment, stop reading, clear your mind and don’t think anything at all…

Not as easy as it sounds, is it? It’s very challenging to clear your mind of thoughts, and can be especially challenging to clear your mind of negative thoughts. But it is important to remember that you are not your thoughts; you are not your mind. You are so much more, and with a conscious effort, you can achieve mastery over your thoughts leading to a sense of empowerment that when applied, can be enriching, life altering and life sustaining. 

I’ve always posited that our behaviors define who we are. Negativistic thinking can keep one merely surviving and not living in (and with) one’s authentic self. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe, ob’m says, “Think good and it will be good.” If we think more adaptively and positively, our behaviors will follow, but if we are stuck in a “stinkin’ thinkin’” mindset, we can prevent ourselves from reframing negative thoughts and will continue to assume the hamster wheel in which we live makes perfect sense.

So, where do we start with a conscious effort to turn things around?

Create a feelings list and check in during the day. Explore core feelings like joy and happiness, fear, sadness, pain, loneliness, anger, frustration, confusion, shame and guilt. Connect with your feelings in the moment understanding that feelings change frequently. Then ask yourself, “What do I need to do to take better care of myself right now?” The few minutes invested in this mental exercise might prevent you from behaving reactively and impulsively, and creates tools in your emotional toolbox for healthier self-care and functioning. It can also help ease that repetitive negativity. 

In Practicing the Power of Now, author Eckhart Tolle reflects, “The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not ‘the thinker.’ The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence.”

He adds that, “You also realize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken.”

I invite you to wake up to your true, authentic self through a conscious effort to move from mind-full to mindful.

Dr. Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC#41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. She can be reached at (760) 774.0047.

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