Mindfulness of Thoughts Class Follow-Up
In this weekly follow-up, I’m offering many ways for you to work with the content that was presented in class. Please don’t feel pressured to do it all. Do what feels right to you. Trying to meditate daily might be enough! Some days, having the intention is even enough. But if you want more, I’m offering options to take it deeper.
In this class, we learned about and practiced mindfulness of thoughts. Highlights from the class include:
- The goal of mindfulness practice is not to “empty the mind” or turn off the thoughts. We aim to see them for what they are and cultivate a wise relationship.
- You don’t have to believe your thoughts! They are real but not necessarily true.
- Thinking is an addiction for many people. When we’re lost in thought, we lose the present moment.
- Many of our thoughts fall into the categories of: past, future, and judgment.
- The moment of recognizing and waking up out of a thought is a pivotal moment in this training – the beginning of real freedom!
- It can help to normalize and name your thoughts and then return to your anchor.
- If we think of thoughts as clouds, we can train to identify with the vast sky instead of the clouds passing through it.
A Few Videos
Here’s a video I made to distinguish between Mindfulness and Skillful Means, and what mindfulness makes possible.
And here’s a brief, visual commentary on the mind’s ability to pull us in and the wake that Just One Thought can set in motion in our mind.
Finally, here’s a guided meditation/visualization that uses the image of snow flurries for practicing mindfulness of thoughts.
(Click the links to see the videos.)
Deeper Dive: The Work of Byron Katie
This inquiry process is a complementary practice to mindfulness of thoughts. In a nutshell, mindfulness is noticing you’re thinking and directing attention back. Inquiry is what you can do with the sticky thoughts, to help you to reprogram your beliefs. They’re two different, but related, processes. The inquiry process is a skill or tool that mindfulness makes possible. We can begin to have some choice in what we’re believing when we can recognize and mindfully challenge the beliefs and turn them around. Byron Katie offers four questions to help us do this with sticky, emotionally charged thoughts and beliefs that don’t serve us:
What am I believing?
- Is it true?
- Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do I react, and what happens when I believe that thought?
- Who would I be without that thought?
Here’s a video that describes the process.
Here are some common, unhealthy beliefs, or Universal Beliefs, that may or may not resonate with you:
- I need to work hard for approval or love.
- I am not worthy of being loved; I don’t deserve to be happy.
- Anyone I get close to will hurt me.
- I need to be different to be loved/happy/at peace.
- Other people don’t understand or appreciate me.
- I am invisible to others.
- I am special, smarter, better than others.
- It’s dangerous to appear weak or needy.
- I can’t trust anyone not to take advantage of me.
- I am fundamentally flawed.
- I am a failure. I will fail at anything I do.
I’ve found Bryon Katie’s “turn-around” process to be very valuable. A couple examples of thoughts I’ve turned around include:
- It isn’t spiritually virtuous to have financial prosperity. (Turnaround: Money empowers me to live my dreams and to help others to do the same.)
- I can’t be successful doing the work I love. (Turnaround: If I’m doing what I’m called to do, I will be provided for.)
You can visit The Work of Byron Katie website to learn more about this process. There are lots of free resources and videos.
This Week’s Homework
- Try to build up to 15-20 minutes/day (and remember that any practice is better than none).
- Experiment with one or more the guided meditations below and any practices you enjoyed from previous weeks.
- Practice noticing when you are caught in a common thought pattern.
- Suggestion: Record each meditation session in your practice log. Include what you noticed during your sitting, what challenges or insights arose, and what questions you wish to ask during the next class.
Please remember that any meditation is better than none! If you don’t have time to meditate on a given day, you might try:
- Going to sleep listening to a guided meditation. (You could even do this with a child, partner, or someone you’re caring for.)
- Pausing to take three conscious breaths throughout the day. (You might want to use the Mindfulness Bell app for this.)
- Breathing with your sleeping child or dear one
- Standing/sitting/walking meditation between activities
- Stepping outside and feeling the sun on your skin, watching or listening to birds, breathing in fresh air, watching the clouds drift through the sky, gazing at the stars/moon, being mindful of sounds, etc.
- Taking a few minutes to imagine yourself in the most beautiful, soothing place
- Taking time for gratitude by writing down five things you’re grateful for each day and pausing to savor pleasurable experiences. (Here is a blog post I wrote that might be helpful.)
- Breathing with the Breathe Bubble on Calm.
- If you’re in need of soothing or calming, you might want to check out the Magic Flowers Visual Healing App or filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg’s Netflix series of breathtaking nature videos, including time-lapse flowers.
Questions to Reflect on
- What are your “top ten tunes”: the issues or themes that regularly take over your mind?
- Create an inventory of your strongly held beliefs. Practice asking yourself, “What am I believing?” (It may be helpful to refer to this list of Universal Beliefs.)
- Choose some of the themes you’ve identified that are strong (perhaps ones that bring up anxiety or anger), and find a few words that you can use to name each of them – perhaps even create a song title for it! This will help you to label them when they arise during meditation and in daily life.
Live Guided Meditations
I’m offering live, guided meditation sessions weekly via Zoom through Schuylerville Public Library. Please join me if you’d like on Tuesdays at 7 PM. You can save the link. They will remain the same from week to week. Therefore, it’s not necessary to sign up for each session. However, if you don’t sign up, you won’t receive a reminder.
Thursday evening Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87301609088?pwd=dU0zMko2Z0xnMHZtN2NZS1ZJNTlOQT09
Pre-Recorded Guided Meditations
Choose whatever meditations resonate most, including ones from previous weeks.
Mindfulness of Thoughts
Susan Meyer (9 min.)
Mindfulness of Thoughts (with more detailed instructions from Jon Kabat-Zinn)
Susan Meyer (14 min.)
Central Practice of Mindfulness (includes mindfulness of breath, body, feelings, and thoughts)
Susan Meyer (20 min.)
On Insight Timer
Vipassana (Basic) Meditation
by Tara Brach (15 min.)
I’ve recorded and uploaded more guided meditations that can be accessed when you sign up HERE (scroll down to the bottom) for my newsletter mailing list. Please also refer to the Course Introduction page for additional resources to support your meditation practice.
May your practice be fruitful this week! This is important work you are doing. I look forward to seeing you in the next class. Until then, please feel free to email me (email@example.com) with any questions you may have.
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