Gaining Clarity in Observing Your Thoughts or Feelings
The following exercise is not to see how well you can track your thinking or feelings, but to give you the experience of being the conscious observer of yourself. Believe it or not, you are the thinker, not your thoughts or feelings.
Go to your sacred space. Plan to sit comfortably, undisturbed for 15 minutes and complete the following excerise:
- Take a few slow, deep breaths.
- Turn your attention to your thoughts. If you are dealing with an emotional issue, focus on that emotion.
Instead of getting caught up in your thoughts or feelings as you would usually do, watch them closely. For example, if you where a tennis player watching the ball or an artist painting a canvas. If you find your attention wandering, come back to the task at hand.
At first, your mind may seem like wall to wall thoughts or emotions, and you may have difficulty determining where one thought leaves off and the next one begins. You may also find that certain thoughts or emotions keep recurring like a popular song. For example, repetitive worries or your favorite images or fantasies. If you’re especially attentive, you may begin to notice that each thought or emotion has its own parts, including a beginning, middle and an end.
- At the end of the 15 minutes, stop and reflect on your experience.
Did you experience some “distance” from your thoughts or emotions? Or did you keep losing yourself in the thinking process?
As you begin to gain some perspective on your thoughts through the practice of meditation, you will find that they start losing the power they once had over you. You can have your thoughts and feelings, but they won’t have you.
What is the difference between thoughts and feeling?
Feelings occur as a set of recognizable sensations in your body. When you’re angry, for example, you may feel tension in your shoulders and jaw and experience a rush of energy in the back of your head. When you’re sad, by contrast, you may feel heaviness in your chest and heart. Through meditation, you can discover how to experience your feelings directly as sensations, separate from thoughts and stories that perpetuate them.
Thoughts are the images, memories, beliefs, judgments and reflections that float through your mind and often give rise to your feelings. If you follow the word “feel” with “like”, you’re probably voicing a thought or a belief, rather than a feeling. You can practice breaking strong feelings down into their component parts by asking, what are the thoughts and images in my mind that keep me feeling the way I do? What am I actually experiencing in my body right now, aside from my thoughts?
Thoughts not only generate feelings, they often masquerade as feelings, (so you won’t actually feel the ones you have) attempt to talk you out of your feelings, judge your feelings, or suppress them entirely. The more you can recognize your thoughts and feelings, the more clearly and consciously you can relate with and express your inner experience and hear your true self.
By: Lauren Larsen