Written by Kate Landreth, Education Lead and Mindfulness and Yoga Teacher
Like many things in life, whatever you think or do regularly becomes a habit. The aim of meditation is to train the mind, creating a strongly conditioned pathway in the brain.
We practice meditation consistently so that when challenges inevitably arise, we can navigate them in a responsive and thoughtful way. However, it is so easy to forget that we have just as much fitness, strength, concentration, or resilience that we have trained for.
We are what we repeatedly do
Meditation teaches us be aware of our thoughts and to see those thoughts are just thoughts. They do not always represent reality. For example, how many times have you worried and ruminated about a situation or conversation that hadn’t yet occurred and then never came to be? When we bring the power of awareness to our thoughts, we begin to see familiar habits of the mind.
If every thought and action form a habit, then it is important to consider what thoughts are on repeat in the mind. We can assume that not every thought will be positive and that our minds will have worrisome and anxious thoughts, too — this is part of the human experience. The practice of mindfulness is not to get rid of, shame, or disconnect from your feelings and thoughts, but to notice them. Quite often we get wrapped up in the stories associated with certain feelings and thoughts or we completely ignore, suppress, or push them aside.
Imagine two buckets: one bucket is suffering thoughts and the other bucket is well-being thoughts. The aim is to be aware of your habitual thoughts and start to notice which bucket they fall into. Notice how worrisome thoughts tend to perpetuate and prime your mind to expect trouble. The way you direct your attention can strengthen anxiety, desire, and resistance or can lead to healing and compassion. The meditative process is about being open and curious about your relation to thought and emotion. As you get more comfortable with discovering the nature of your emotions and thoughts, you can aim to strengthen the well-being bucket.
Here is an insight practice for you to consider your own thought patterns. Pull out a pen and paper and without judgment answer the following questions:
- What thought patterns keep repeating in your life?
- Do these patterns show up in certain behaviours (actions), feelings (emotions) or physical sensations?
- What beliefs correlate to these habits/patterns? What pattern(s) can be re-directed to a well-being thought? What does that look and sound like?