Would you like to be free of negative emotions and thoughts such as anger, frustration, resentfulness, regret, bitterness, anxiety, worry, stress? Are you a compulsive thinker, your mind going over and over problems? Would you like to learn how to clear your mind, how to live in the moment and how to experience inner peace?
The above negative emotions and thought processes are brought about because your mind is constantly in the past or in the future. Past thoughts lead to feelings of regret, bitterness, resentment and anger. Our mind goes over past grievances and negative experiences and manifests these thoughts into negative emotions. Thoughts of the future lead to stress, worry and anxiety. What happens if ….
For example, you have lost your job and are worried about finances. These are thoughts of the future, creating the worry. Right here and now, there is no problem. That is not to say that you should, or even could, constantly remain in the now and therefore have no problems. What it does mean is that you can choose when to think about your financial concerns, and take positive action, rather than having your thoughts controlling you and causing worry and anxiety.
Not being able to stop that incessant chatter and thinking is a terrible burden. Our constant state of compulsive thinking brings with it continuous problems and conflict. It is good to be able to think about problems and find resolutions but with most people the mind is controlling them, rather than them controlling the mind. Sit still, close your eyes if it helps, and completely clear your mind of all thought. See how long it takes before another thought pops into your head. For some people, it may be mere seconds, for others longer. For most people it is impossible to clear the mind for any length of time – the thoughts just pop in, uninvited. Your mind is controlling you!
This “mind control” can affect you in many different ways. It can lead to anxiety and stress, depression and insomnia. Do you find it hard to get to sleep, or do you wake during the night unable to get back to sleep? What’s happening with your thoughts? Is your mind going around and around, are you unable to slow it down?
The key to eliminating a racing mind, negative thought patterns and the subsequent negative emotions they create is to live “in the moment”. It is only in the moment – right now – that there are no problems and you can find inner peace.
Make yourself comfortable and completely clear your mind of all thoughts. Ask yourself – right here and now, in this moment, do I have a problem? If you are truly “in the moment” your answer will be “no” because at this particular moment in time, right here and now, you do not have a problem. Any problems you might have are related to thoughts, past and future.
The first step in banishing these past and future thoughts is to be aware of what you are thinking and to learn how to focus on the now. When your mind is filled with repetitive thoughts of the past and future, (which is probably most of the time), listen to the thought, observe without judgement, accept then let the thought go. Once you have let the thought go, it no longer has power over you. You will be “in the now”, in the present time, maybe only for a few seconds until another thought pops into your head. Do the same to this next thought and gradually you will be able to lengthen the time you are in the present.
If you are feeling negative emotions like anger, resentment, bitterness or regret, these emotions are manifestations of emotions (and thoughts) of the past. Let go of those negative emotions and bring yourself wholly to the present. It is important to acknowledge these negative emotions and then accept them. Do not judge yourself because then you are bringing in more negative emotions. If you are feeling anxious, stressed or worrying about things then your mind is in the future. Acknowledge these emotions, accept them without judgement and bring your mind back to the present where there is no anxiety, worry or stress.
It is important to accept what is – don’t resist, don’t fight. That doesn’t mean that you just accept what is happening in your life and do nothing about it. Once you can learn to accept that “it is what it is”, when you are no longer resisting and fighting, you can then clearly and objectively find solutions. Don’t allow your mind talk and incessant chatter to control you. It is your decision when to think about and resolve issues. You are in control of your mind.
Neighbours dog barking? The reality is that allowing the noise to frustrate or anger you is worse than the actual barking. Accept it. Do something about it if you wish, but do not allow your thoughts to manifest into anger, frustration or resentment.
Stuck in traffic? Getting angry, frustrated, stressed, resentful about it? You are living in the future, worrying about being late or wasting your time. Don’t allow these negative emotions and thoughts to affect you. Live in the moment. Accept the delay. There is no point about becoming worried or frustrated about being late – there is nothing you can do about it. Use this time to practise living in the moment, to practise your breathing and cessation of thought. Look at the traffic delays as an opportunity to clear your mind.
Another way of stilling the mind from incessant thought and chatter and to experience inner peace is to focus fully on any routine task at hand. Whether that be cleaning, walking from one room to another or washing your car. When doing any of these activities, focus all of your attention on the task at hand. Focus on all the sensory perceptions – the smells, the sounds, the physical sensations, your breathing. By doing this you are in the now and the more you practise, the more inner peace you will experience.
Whenever you are sitting still, either waiting for someone, after having just got in to your car, or having just arrived somewhere in your car, use this time to still your thoughts and connect with your inner peace by focusing entirely on your breathing. Concentrate on every breath in and every breath out. Slow, deep breaths. If you are a shallow breather and therefore have difficulty in obtaining a deep breath, practise deep breathing methods.
Also use this time to cease all thought and go “into your body”. Feel the energy right from deep within yourself while you breathe your deep, slow breaths. The more you practise this, the deeper level of inner peace you will experience.
Most people, when they have this quiet time throughout the day, tend to check their phone or read or listen to music. Stop this habit of constantly thinking – every available opportunity throughout the day, practise the cessation of thought, the focus on breathing and going into your body to feel your inner energy and inner peace. If you watch television at night, during the ads, mute the sound and use that time to practise.
It is important to gain perspective with regards to events that happen throughout your life. In our mind we label things that happen in our lives as “good” or “bad” but who are we to know what is actually good or bad for us at that particular time. It is only in the future that the true realisation of how events have impacted us is discovered. Once you learn to accept, there is always a positive outcome from what, at the time, we considered to be bad.
There is no such thing as good and bad things that happen to you. You can learn important lessons from “bad” things that happen, so in effect these are good things. “Good” things that happen to you can also lead to future problems. Things aren’t either good or bad, they just are. Do not resist things that happen to you that you perceive to be bad. Accept them. You can still feel sad about things, like a death, but if you accept and not resist then you can also still feel at peace. If you are in a situation that you can change, do what you need to do to change it, but still accept that it is what it is.
Our life is made up of cycles of successes and failures. When we have failure we need to let go and stop resisting. It is only when we let go of the failure that we allow other opportunities to come our way.
People often think that happiness and peace are one and the same. You need to understand the difference.
Happiness occurs from external happenings in your life and can just as easily be gained or lost. Inner peace comes from within and cannot be influenced by external events. Allow yourself to experience happiness whenever you can but remember that nothing in life is permanent so your level of happiness will always rise and fall. Once you obtain inner peace it will remain regardless of the external events surrounding you. Even if everything in your life was to fall apart, despite the fact that you would not be happy, you would still feel at peace.
Start exploring these concepts. Read books, practise daily. This is an evolution, a journey that will take time. Don’t be hard on yourself or judge yourself if you don’t “get it” straight away. Don’t give up. Be kind and gentle on yourself and practise, practise, practise.
By Andrea Southern, Naturopath, Nutritionist, Herbalist at Stafford and The Gap in Brisbane. For an appointment phone 0412 791 705