Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Observing Your Thoughts & Letting them Go

While doing yoga, the instructors often teach about being an observer of your thoughts. This means that you think away, but you don't always have to respond to those thoughts, act upon them, or even continue thinking them.

I'll talk more in depth about yoga in another post, but what I've learned regarding thoughts from yoga is that first of all, the thoughts are often just patterns of earlier thinking. Rehashing what's already be done (Steve Ross calls this "the dead past") or worrying about what may or not work out later on (he calls this "the imaginary future") just takes us away from the present moment -- from experiencing what is happening here and now.

Another lesson learned is that our thoughts often drive our current actions, but we can just observe them and send them away. This is particularly helpful while trying to break habits you don't want in your life anymore. So many experts on eating better talk about how we should ask ourselves "Am I hungry right now?" (or am I really bored, anxious, angry, whatever). I see the wisdom in that question, but what would always win in my mind was "No, but I want to eat it anyway." I'm not always an observer when I question myself. I tend to fight back.

Lately, however, I've been able to just sit and watch my thoughts with better results. Before the "But I really want this" drive takes over, I look at myself more like I'd look at my 7 year old son when he's up to no good and thinks he can get away with it. I tell myself "I see what's happening" and then compartmentalize that thought and let it go. It's really quite empowering.

Take this morning, for example. After 16 days of Christmas vacation, my children went back to school. There was some stress involved with getting up on time, fitting in my workouts, getting everyone else up and ready, hoping my youngest son wouldn't get in trouble (so far, no calls from the school -- it's a nice day when that happens). As I walked in the door after taking the youngest three to school, my initial thought (to the depths that it felt like a need) was to sit down and eat some bread. (I've been buying Trader Joe's wheat bread for our family and it's truly as good as homemade, which is nice for them, but dangerous for me. I gain weight easily eating bread). Anyway, eating bread this morning wasn't in my plan for the day (or the week, for that matter), but my thoughts were that this would help me assimilate all that went on this morning. It wasn't really a cause for celebratory eating, more of a release to just sit and eat bread. I quickly identified this thought as a pattern, a habit, not a true need. I wasn't even hungry. So I let that thought go and went on with my morning. Quite liberating!

I hope I'm not the only one who thinks this much about food. :) Off to tackle the 2nd 1/2 of my day. TTFN!

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