Let’s Start with our Thoughts
We’ve all been taught that change is hard, and this is a myth that most of us believe. Our ego has done a good job of tricking us into believing it because the ego is often resistant to change, and likes to maintain the status quo. (Plus it can be a clever justification for the rut we find ourselves in.) But is it really true? Is change difficult? Well, if we try to change from the external yes, because that often involves using force. And trying to force change is always a struggle. I still remember trying to force my then 2 year old daughter to brush her teeth. Forget it!
But let’s look at change in a different way, from within, from the internal. Let’s start with changing our thoughts. Changing our thoughts is really just a choice, you are making a choice to see things differently. You might thing it’s hard to change your mind, because it means you have to change a behaviour as well, but what if you didn’t have to do anything, you didn’t have to worry about taking action? You just make a choice to see things differently. That in itself is not that hard. For example, centuries ago, people thought the world was flat. Having this thought was not particularly hard for them, they didn’t strain and moan when they had it, it was just what they thought. We might consider this limiting; in the past people wouldn’t travel very far from home because they thought they’d fall off the earth. Then, based on new evidence people changed their thoughts. They said, “Ah it now appears (despite what our senses tell us ) that the earth is round”. Shifting into this new thought was also not hard to do. The thought changed and as a result the world around them changed; it expanded. They were able to explore a new horizon.
Once you change your thoughts your external world begins to align with them. You really don’t have to worry about doing anything, change will happen organically. For example if someone plays the thought “I am fat” over and over in their mind, it will be hard to lose weight, because their actions will support their beliefs. Yet if someone begin to shift their thoughts from “ I am fat” to “I am healthy”, they will begin to make other choices that support the “I am healthy” thought. And personal shift can lead to global shift. At one time part of our population believed in slavery, and now our culture abhors this notion. The thought on that changed. You may say yes, but it wasn’t just a thought that made change, some people had to work towards change, to stand up and make that happen. And yes this is true. Some people may find it is their dharma, (their calling) to work for a cause ( a thought) they believe in. Yet, they wouldn’t be very effective without a shift in perception of the people around them. They would just be seen as a crazy troublemaker, railing away in isolation. But once everyone starts to shifts their thoughts to equality, or to the environment, or to peace, a supportive field is created where those things can grow. We have a saying at the Chopra Center, where your attention goes, energy flows.
The point is our thoughts are very powerful. Right now this principle is being explored in the world of quantum physics, which is experimenting with how our reality, our world is created by the thoughts we have. Gives even more meaning to Rene Descartes’ famous line “I think, therefore I am”.
Mindful Practice-Notice your Thoughts
The next time you find you are going all monkeymind, that is you are experiencing a barrage of thoughts, take a breath and gently notice your thoughts. Just say “Oh look at that I’m having this thought,” and then exhale; imagine the thought falls off you like a water drop or blows away like a dandelion in the wind.
Resist the ego’s urge to label your thoughts as bad or good. That gets you caught in a guilt cycle, where you beat yourself up with even more thoughts. (And we don’t need more of that.) Even if you have a thought like “I’m stupid” or “My spouse is so negative,” don’t label it a bad thought. That just makes it harder to get rid of. When you shame the thought you just push it underground where it will hide, and keep on gathering strength.
Just continue to gently practice being aware of your thoughts. Eventually as you practice more, you may ask yourself, “Is this thought limiting or expansive?” And as you become more aware you may begin to let go of the limiting thoughts and choose ones that are more nourishing, but there is no pressure, you still don’t have to do anything. Lots of people know the world is round but don’t travel. They just share an expanded reality that supports us all.
So entertain a new perspective. Can you change your thought on changing your thoughts? Remember there is no striving; changing a thought is just a tiny choice, like flicking a switch. It’s easy. And easy is a good place to start.