I’m an analyzer…not professionally though…
It’s more like a constant stream of thoughts inside my head.
And I get stuck in them.
Is this the right color? But maybe this one would be better…
Will this be good for me? But what if…..
It can really go on and on.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I realize that it is important to gather facts and analyze them in order to make a sound decision. But I am talking about over-analysis…one that could, and does, go on forever.
But you know what happens when I allow myself to get caught up in these streams of thoughts? I lose track of the moment…
And I become separated from all the things that could bring me happiness and contentment in that moment.
But the thinking mind does much more than just distract us from feeling happiness and contentment.
There is a Buddhist teaching called “The Arrow.” It teaches us that when we experience something that may lead to pain, we start a whole process of mental activity and thought that actually builds up that experience, and increases our suffering. Buddha explained it this way…if you get shot by an arrow, it will hurt. But if you get shot by a second arrow in the same place, it will hurt worse.
Let me give you an example. The other day I had to go to the dentist for a root canal…the dentist did a great job, and it really wasn’t a bad experience.
Now this story could just end there and it would be no big deal.
But it doesn’t…you see, I had been putting off getting the proper dental care for a cavity I knew I had for years because of the thougths that filled my head about how unpleasant the experience would be.
Until I was driven there by severe tooth pain that required a root canal to correct. My thoughts took a simple cavity and created years of mental discomfort that eventually led to significant physical discomfort. It all could have been avoided had I just faced the need to repair a tooth, and ignored or shut down the voices in my head.
Have you experienced something like this? A time when you were sick, but your thoughts then made the experience worse? Or another moment where things didn’t go as planned, and then your thoughts kept pricking the sore spot? Or even worse, are you guilty of shooting the arrow in the first place?
Let me share another example:
I was asked to be on a committee at my church to help plan an upcoming activity. So, I started down the road of thinking
But I worked with the committee, and do you know what? It was actually really fun. I had the chance to work with some pretty creative people who had great ideas. And some great friendships developed from that group. I was shooting myself over and over about something that ended up being a great experience.
What are other “arrows” in our lives? Can you identify some of yours?
We are conditioned to make judgements from a very young age. Some judgements are necessary… is it hot? is it sharp? but these are simple judgements necessary to keep us from physical harm.
Judging people is not so simple. These judgements seep into our thoughts until their insidious poison fills our minds and drowns our happiness. Yet, often these judgements are unnecessary.
When we judge others, those judgements act to separate us from others, often even those whom we love most. Though they may appear to justify our displeasure or unhappiness, they can leave us feeling lonely and disconnected, thus further blocking our way to contentment and happiness.
But the most damaging form of judgement is the many varied self-judgements we make every day…
These judgements are often elusive…a subtle undercurrent that eats away at our ability to feel contentment. But in every case, they are evidence that we are caught in the thinking mind, shooting ourselves over and over again, perpetuating our own unhappiness and discontent. The cycle can be relentless.
Hopefully you are getting the concept of the thinking mind, and how it can block happiness in life. Now, let me give you some simple steps to overcome the thinking mind.
The first step in changing any action or state is to recognize when you are doing something that blocks happiness. The most simple way of doing this is to simply ask yourself a question:
“Am I truly happy right now?”
If the answer is “No” then you need to ask:
“What is blocking my happiness?”
The answer needs to come from within. We have little control over external circumstances and situations, and the most frequent block to your happiness will be something that is within you.
Once you have answered these two questions, you can take the next step.
Take the answer to what is blocking your happiness, and identify it as a belief, and labeling it as such. Let’s take my example of the dentist:
Believing the thought “this will cause me pain,” acted as an arrow that increased my suffering, prolonged it, and delayed any activity towards a solution to the issue.
Believing the thought “you are not enough” or “he/she doesn’t love me” or any other thought identified as blocking your happiness IS what is blocking your happiness. The thoughts themselves only have power because we believe them to be TRUE.
The process of labeling the thought as a belief helps create some objectivity, and it allows for mercy, which is the exact opposite of judgement. Releasing belief in our thoughts can help us move beyond into true happiness and contentment.
Take a moment to notice where you feel negative thoughts in your body. What does it feel like physically? How does it manifest?
This sensation accompanies the fear we feel when we believe negative thoughts about ourselves or others. Rarely do we recognize it for what it is, because it is uncomfortable, and we avoid discomfort, so we turn away from the feeling.
But the importance of taking a moment to identify the feeling is to observe it, recognize that it is based in our belief of the thought that caused it. This allowing often acts to diminish the feeling on its own. When we start to observe our thoughts and the physical feelings they invoke, we can choose to no longer believe them as the TRUTH.
Thoughts are with us every day. They are a part of who and what we are, but we CAN learn to guide and control them. And even more importantly, we can CHOOSE which ones to believe.
Through recognizing the dream (or nightmare) that our thoughts create, we can create the dream in which we live.
I choose to live in a dream of happiness and contentment…how about you?
What are the ways that your thinking mind blocks your happiness? Share you thoughts below :)