Being the Observer of Your Thoughts


Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Spiritual Teachings, Spirituality, Things I've Learned, Thought | Posted on 10-16-2015

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[Jill’s Note: If you prefer to listen rather than read, please scroll to the bottom of this post for the audio version.]

Observing Our LifeMost of us live our lives without ever noticing our thoughts. When we don’t know what’s going on in our heads, most of the time we act unconsciously. We allow our reactive habits and behaviors to take over, and become like robots going through our programmed ways of dealing with life.

Which is a recipe for disaster.

A few years ago I watched a lot of Eckhart Tolle videos. He talked a lot about observing our thoughts as the first step towards freedom and a clear mind. I didn’t know why or how paying attention to my thoughts might help clear my mind, but figured I’d give it a whirl. At the time I was meditating about 20 minutes each morning so I had some idea of what observing thoughts meant, however, he was talking about looking at them throughout the day. This kind of observation is a bit different than sitting quietly in meditation, and for me, it was much more powerful.

As I started to observe my thoughts, I noticed quickly just how much thinking I was doing that I hadn’t been aware of. It was pretty crazy. Or rather, I seemed very crazy! I had a constant stream of chatter and comments about everything going on around me at any given moment. I also noticed stuff about the past and thoughts around what might happen in the future. All happening at once! If nothing else, it gave me a deeper appreciation of our amazing brain that is capable of having thoughts about past, present and future–simultaneously!

Then an interesting thing happened.

I have no idea how long this took, be it hours, days, weeks or months, but at some point the chatter calmed down. It was as if the thoughts couldn’t exist while being watched. (I liken it to shining a light on cockroaches!) Now don’t get me wrong, I still had plenty of thoughts, but there weren’t as many dimensions. It seemed that I was having fewer thoughts about the thoughts, if that makes sense. This in turn opened up space in my head. It felt like the clouds had parted, and there was clear blue sky all around.

Eventually, this became my default state of mind.

These days, I don’t consciously observe my thoughts, but it continues to happen naturally. Of course it’s a lot easier, because there are fewer thoughts to notice overall. I’ve gotten used to having a clearer mind, which means I can’t help but notice when the shit hits the fan and I’m caught up in a major thought storm. Rather than my default blue sky, it’s like a mega thunderstorm, complete with dark clouds, lightning and tons of booming thunder! As you can imagine–just like with the outside weather–I much prefer the clear, sunny days in my head.

I’m no longer a prisoner to my thoughts.

Because they can’t hide from me, I see my thoughts more quickly. This in turn helps me recognize them for what they are–“just thoughts.” Once they’re identified as such, it’s a lot easier for me to not attach meaning to them. It’s the meaning we attach to our thoughts that causes them to stick around. Without meaning, thoughts have no power on their own–they are just flowing energy which comes and goes. This helps me be less inclined to react to or hold on to the “crazy” ones.

For instance, let’s take anxious thoughts. Until I started observing my thoughts, I had no idea how much anxiety was coursing through my brain All.Day.Long. No idea at all. When I think about it now, it’s hard to imagine how I managed to be a mostly functional and successful person given how many anxious thoughts I had. Without noticing them, there was nothing I could do but allow anxiety to run my life. Striving to feel better (without consciously realizing it) was my main goal in life. Whatever means I could find to soothe myself, was the order of the day. And that, my friends, is what creates addictions, both big and small. Not just for me, but for every human being on the planet.

My particular uncomfortable thoughts were anxious ones, but others have a constant stream of sad, or angry thoughts. Regardless of the characteristics, any thoughts we deem as uncomfortable will cause us to do whatever it takes to make them go away. (Which interestingly enough is our Wisdom at play.) Some people drink or take drugs, some overspend, some get lost in books, the Internet or TV, and the list goes on and on.

The good news is…

By shining a constant light on our thoughts, i.e., bringing them into our conscious awareness through observation, we can magically transmute them into nothingness. Which is the ultimate freedom. When our thoughts don’t feel quite as uncomfortable to us (or we at least start to feel more comfortable with the uncomfortableness) we have no need for our old soothing (addictive) behaviors.

Then our lives are transformed forever!

If there’s one practice or “doing” that I would prescribe to you, it’s to start observing your thoughts. I can’t guarantee you’ll have the same results I had, but it certainly can’t hurt. The benefits for me throughout my transformational journey have been nothing short of amazing. Being more consciously aware has taught me more about life than anything I’ve heard or read. It’s the key to a clearer mind, freedom from addictions and a whole new world of possibilities!

— Jill

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CONTACT JILL WHALEN to learn how she may help you be the best you can be.

Jill is the author of Victim of Thought: Seeing Through the Illusion of Anxiety

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For the past 20 years, Jill has consulted with companies big and small, and spoken at conferences all over the world. She is currently a transformational speaker and mentor to businesses, individuals, coaches, leaders, groups and organizations. She helps them uncover their natural well-being and happiness so that they can operate from a clearer state of mind and take their lives and businesses to a higher level.

Jill's blog, What Did You Do With Jill? is a personal account of what she's learned throughout her transformational journey. Jill has many "viral" articles on LinkedIn and is a contributing writer for P.S. I Love You.

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