By Steven Bancarz| We have all suffered from anxiety, depression, anger, and stress at some points in our life. Sometimes, these sufferings contribute to our evolution and help squeeze us into more mature states of being. Suffering can be a catalyst for personal transformation, but it can also be…well…useless, redundant, and unnecessary. If suffering doesn’t serve a purpose in your life any longer, it doesn’t need to be in your reality.
I got sick of waking up at 4 in the morning to my mind reminding me about everything that was wrong with my life. Was revisiting the same misery-causing thoughts all day really going to contribute to a positive solution? I was waiting for the universe to send me a lollipop every time I got beat down by my thoughts, and I was dis-empowering myself by putting the keys to my happiness into the world around me. Then, a shift happened in my life. I realized I was the author of my energy field, and the owner of my mind. I didn’t have to let involuntary thoughts create involuntary emotions anymore. The obsessive and compulsive need to think about my problems all day had ended, and I was truly free for this first time.
This happened because I revised my relationship to my thoughts and my mind. This is all it takes to free you from suffering, and it will completely change your life. No religion, ideology, dogma, pills, or wishful thinking. Only consciousness and understanding. The following 5 practices are ones that I have developed on my journey that have given me back ownership over my mind and my life, and I promise that if you promise these in your daily life, you will have more peace and inner freedom in your very first day:
Practice 1: Stop, and Take 10 Seconds
For some strange reason, the mind is convinced that it has to think about your problems all day or else they won’t get resolved . An amazing realization is that no matter how immediate or seemingly important an issue is in your life, you can always take just 10 seconds to not think about it. Sometimes it’s very difficult to stop thinking about a problem in our life for good, but the mind will always be able to understand that not thinking about your problem for just 10 seconds is justifiable.
One of the realizations that set in for me when I would attempt to take a ten second break from thinking is that thinking is an addiction. I couldn’t stop doing it, and it felt so good to do. Thought is a drug. We can’t stop indulging in it. Our minds crave it, and we can’t resist the cravings it gets. And the worst part is, we end up emotional victims to whatever thoughts it decides to feed off of. But the amazing thing is, you can enact your will and actually choose to not think.
Right now, claim this in your mind: “For the next 10 seconds, I am not going to believe a SINGLE thing my mind says because I am going to choose not to think. Any thought that arises is just a pattern and is not reflective of my will or intentions”. Sure enough, halfway through you will see thoughts arise again. But they aren’t yours. They are patterns. And you know this because you already claimed that any thought that arises is not yours. Try to not think for just ten seconds right now, and pay attention to the involuntary thought patterns that arise.
Practice 2: Go Into The Now
Its so easy to allow thinking to suck up all of our attention to go through an entire day just daydreaming. As convincing and enticing our thoughts may be, the truth is that thought has no essential reality. Thoughts are just voices that arise in our minds, and almost all of them are dedicated to past or possible future situations which don’t actually exist in reality. If you all of a sudden couldn’t speak English, you wouldn’t understand anything your mind was telling you, and you would probably be the most peaceful you have ever been. What does this tell us about the nature of the voices in our head? That they only have power over our emotions when we give reality to them.
Take a moment right now to become still and observe the contents of this moment. The feeling of your butt on your chair. The incoming light. Maybe there are sounds coming in from another room or outside. Become deeply aware of your immediate sense perceptions. What does it feel like to be inside your body? This is reality. The mind cannot argue with the fact only this moment is real. It is never not this moment. The past exists as a story, as a series of thoughts in the mind. The future exists as a hypothetical present moment, but only the contents of this moment contribute to actual existence. Right now. This Now. This moment is all you have, and all you ever will have for the rest of your life. We live as if the present moment is somehow secondary to the possibility of the future moment, but what could be of higher importance than reality?
It’s great to get into the habit of asking yourself, “What is happening RIGHT now?” Hear the birds. Feel the air on your skin. Don’t think about feeling it, just feel it. You don’t need to say to yourself “I’m feeling the air right now” in order for you to feel it. Just simply notice what is, without placing judgement or interpretation. The mind will want to start naming things and classifying what it sees. It is a habit of the mind to comment on everything that it sees, but just be aware of what is there without commenting on it. Just be present and listen, without adding any additional content to the moment. Do this right now.
Practice 3: Choose Your Own Mental Activity
A video by my friend Nathaniel Solace provoked this realization within me. Did you know that you can actually choose which thought you want to think? In your head right now, say the word “Dolphin”. Actually say it in your head, right now. Now say it really loud in your head like you are yelling it across the street to somebody. “DOLPHIN!”. Now say your favourite colour in your head out loud. Now say your favourite colour 3 times fast in your head. Pay attention to how it feels to choose a thought, and how much different it feels from the rest of the thoughts we think. When you drop a glass of milk, the mind may say “Great, now look what you did. Just another thing to go wrong this day. Why does this always happen to me?”. Did you choose to think that? Does it feel the same as when you choose your own thoughts? Out of the tens of thousands of thoughts you think each day, how many of them are actually chosen by you in the same way that you chose to think about your favourite colour?
It’s a good habit to get into not only choosing a new thought, but choosing a new story composed of a series of thoughts. For example, you may be depressed because you feel that you are stuck in rut. The thoughts running through your head may be something like “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know where I’m going, my life isn’t how I want it to be”. But you can easily catch your mental programs reacting this way against your will, and use your will to create the alternative thoughts “I am learning what to do, and this current phase is only a stepping stone that will lead me to where I want to be in life”.
Notice how your body reacts to the introduction of a positive thought. Your body loves it. More serotonin gets released immediately the moment you chose a more positive perspective. You can feel the levels of stress and anxiety decrease right away, and all you did was say some words in your mind which were equally as true and valid as the ones that were causing you suffering. Why not choose a positive perspective more often? It feels great. The more you can feel great, the more productive you will be, the more clarity you will have to address issues in your life, and the more energy you will have to get you to where you want to go.
Practice 4: Bring Consciousness To Each Action
A great way to create a stoppage in the misery-causing chatter is to bring your full attention to an action that you would normally only treat as a means to an end. For example, when we are walking to our car we daydream our way there, and then daydream our way to wherever we are going once we get into our car. These daydreams are usually filled with unnecessary thoughts that cause us more suffering and misery. We waste a lot of our time daydreaming away our present moment because our mind is so obsessed with getting to the next moment and the next moment, as if ‘the next moment’ ever arrives, and as if the next moment is more important than this one.
Try to bring attention to every single action that you normally wouldn’t treat as being important. Have to go to the bathroom? Be present when you get up and when you start walking there. Feel your feet on the floor as you take each step, and be there with each movement in your body. The mind will want to start rambling, but don’t let it overtake you, just for a minute. Putting the dishes away? ACTUALLY put them away. Feel the dishes in your hand. How do they feel? Sense the texture. Don’t think about feeling them, just feel them. Pay attention to the feeling of the weight being released as you set the dish down. Hear the noise it makes against the other dishes. This helps generate present moment awareness and creates a breakage in the compulsive suffering-breeding mental chatter.
Taking conscious breaths is another great way to do this. It’s always good to take just a few seconds away from autopilot mode, create a breakage in the stream of automatic thoughts, and bring your full attention to an action that is normally just a method from getting from moment A to moment B.
Practice 5: Become The Witness
This is the greatest kept secret of all. No matter how busy and cluttered your mind is, and no matter how much pain it is causing you, you can always choose to be the witness of it. Instead of being the character in the unfolding of your life, you have the ability to become the witness of this character. Something that I’ve been asking myself a lot lately whenever I feel something distasteful in my mind or in my energy field is “Can it be seen?”. The answer is always yes. If it can be seen by you, and if you can point to it, then it’s not you. If you can notice it happening within you, then there is an implicit separation between you (the noticer) and the activity which is being noticed.
There is the thought or the emotion, and then there is the awareness outside of the thought or the emotion that is able to notice it. Even right now, you are thinking. But you are also aware that you are thinking. Which part of you exists outside of thinking that knows it it is taking place? Which part of you is more real? Which part of you is more fundamental and more essential? An amazing realization is that the thinker is not who you are. You are not your mind, and you are not the voices in your head. You are instead the conscious space that thought exists within. Go to the place of that space, and rest there as the background awareness of the activity.
To “watch” a thought, is to notice that it is there. Don’t think about watching it or start judging or interpreting it, because to do so would be to reidentify with the mental chatter. Listening to it is equally as effective, and you will notice that if you listen to it that there is literally a voice saying words in your head all day. Listening to the voice for the first time as the awareness behind it and realizing that it’s not you is almost kind of scary. It is some foreign entity separate from your will and intention that is rambling on about the same crap all day. We are literally possessed by these voices, and they end up driving us into misery and sometimes insanity.
Just as a room is the space and not the furniture within it, you are the space of consciousness and not the objects within it. Practice watching the contents within your awareness. Decide not to make a fuss about them or give them your attention anymore. Just notice that they are there. Remember, can it be seen? If so, by what?
The key is to actually practice create shifts in your consciousness away from continuous thought. Take a deep breath. Listen to the voices in your head. You are the witness of them. Look around you. What is happening right now? You are here, right now, and you’re at peace. Only this moment exists, and in this moment, you are free.
All of these practices were summarized and taken from my FREE E-book called Live Free which can be accessed HERE. I hope you feel inspired to check it out, and I hope you gained something from reading this!