Our happiness and unhappiness is affected by the way we think, our thinking patterns actually colour the way we perceive the world. Two people can be in the same room doing the same thing yet one is having the time of their life and the other can't wait to get out of there.
What is the difference? The way they think.
Habitual negative thinking patterns colour and control our lives, during this workshop you will learn meditation techniques to decondition negative thinking patterns, retraining your mind to think in more positive ways, making your life smoother and more enjoyable, improving your work life, relationships and happiness.
Feeling anger and dislike does not have to be our natural way of reacting, we have a choice, and we also have the ability to change this habitual tendency. This is because feelings of anger, dislike, hatred and irritation are cultivated states of mind, so also are greed, selfishness and desire. They are cultivated because every time we act on them we strengthen the pathways in our brain related to them.
Every time we feel upset and react to that feeling we exercise it, in the same way a good gymnast will gain better skill and strength through repeating the same series of summersaults, we also exercise our negative thinking and emotions. They get stronger through constant repetition so that they become the most likely way we will react when our buttons are pushed.
With practice our emotional way of reacting becomes our defining traits, they become who we are. I am an angry person, I am a shy person, I am a ……. person, we hear this often, this type of thinking implies that we are our emotions, we are our thinking, that the type of person that we are is somehow fixed. Now this is true in some sense, we are what we think about most in the same way that we are what we eat. Just as the type of food we eat defines the health of our bodies so too our thinking patterns and emotions that we indulge in define the health of our mind. Everyone knows changing our physical diet affects our health, but not everyone realises that in the same way changing our mental diet affects our health also.
Our mental perception colours the world that we live in and how we perceive it. Two different people can be sitting in the same room and one is having the time of their life, the other cant wait to get out of there, what is the difference? Their perception, they both perceive the situation differently, our perception is coloured by what we think, and our emotions come up dependant on that thinking pattern, at what aspect it is pointing at, highlighting.
To change our mental patterns we first need to start being aware of how we think, to watch the emotional charge behind everything we think, say and do. Seated meditation provides the training to do this, it teaches us how to quieten down and watch, but we still should aim at taking this a step further. We can do this by cultivating the same awareness that we do during formal meditation in our daily lives, standing guard on what we think and feel. When a thinking pattern or emotional state comes up that we do not want to define and control our lives, we can shut it down and starve it before it does any damage, using the below techniques.
As soon as we notice a negative pattern of thinking happening we need to stop acting on it, resist the desire, it cannot hurt us. The desire can scream, shout at and threaten us, but its threats are hollow, it is like a spoilt child throwing a tantrum in the corner of the room. Once we have resisted the desire we then place our awareness on, not of what the target of the thinking or emotion is, but on what that thought or emotion feels like. We can identify it by its feeling, if it is negative and causes ourselves or others pain, we will feel bad inside, and our calmness will be gone.
Through understanding we can see the danger of following through with negative states of mind, that becoming involved with them will only cause more pain. Understanding this instead of exercising them we can discard them, in the same way that a well dressed person would discard a dirty rag that is sitting on their shoulder we too can feel the same way towards patterns of thought that do not define the type of person we want to be.
Another way is to turn our attention inside and see what the negative mind state feels like, pull it apart like a scientist studies atoms, see what this experience is made of. For example when a skilled butcher breaks up a bull for sale they separate it into chops, ribs, rump, sirloin, T-bone, chucks steaks etc and then lay them out on a market stall to sell. Going to buy them we no longer see a bull instead we only see chops, ribs, rump, sirloin, T-bone, chucks steaks etc .
In the same way we look closely at an emotional or thinking pattern with full awareness and really feel them, pulling them apart like the skilled scientist or butcher. Doing this we will no longer see the emotion or thought but their individual elements. Everything that is experienced during meditation is experienced as the following four elements:
Wind element = tension, movement, vibration.
Earth element = hardness, softness.
Fire element = heat, cold
Water element = cohesion, dryness.
Once broken up into its component parts we can only see the elements and the thinking pattern or emotion disappears and no longer has control over us.
We can only experience one state of mind at any one time; we can not feel happy and sad at the same time or care for and wish harm towards someone in the same moment. Taking advantage of this we can replace one thought process with another, we have the ability to recondition how we think and to become the type of person we want to be.
A helpful tool for this is to purposely start thinking opposite to the thought process that is happening, replacing a negative thought with a positive one is like putting water on a fire. Intentionally thinking in the opposite way takes the fuel away from the negative thinking pattern; it brings it to an end.
We can train the ability to do this by practicing loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy or gratitude meditation. Practicing these formal meditations has a strong effect on our patterns of thought; this is because as we relax down during meditation our negative patterns of mind are suppressed and not as strong. This makes it easier to think in a different way because we are basically starting with an almost blank canvas; if we practice them often enough these positive thinking patterns will then start becoming our normal response.
Using this technique we can also purposely replace any negative thought pattern that comes up during our day to day lives with a positive one. Weakening the negative patterns through lack of use, with practice we will find that it gets easier to do each time.
Through meditation we have the ability to retrain the way we think, to understand how we create our own pain and also the way to be free of it. This is not only during meditation but the whole of our lives, in the que at the checkout, down the beach, at work, looking after your children. Meditation is not meant to be something that is practiced separate form our lives, it is meant to be lived.
We all have the ability to turn our lives around, to mould the type of person we want to be, the question is, how do you want to define your life?
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This article was written by Stephen Procter, instructor from Tai Chi Health for Life, Australian College of Tai Chi & Qi Gong and Meditation Instructor from Meditation in the Shire, Kirrawee NSW, Australia. If you wish to post this article on another website or in a publication please respect the author and reference / link back to this website, thank you