Imagine your mind is a vast, wide open lake with streams of fresh water running through it. Now imagine that your thoughts are rocks within that lake.
When we get stuck on a thought (rock), typically one that is negative, it is like we cling to that rock (thought) as if we were a limpet.
In order to strive for a more positive mindset, we need to keep swimming and drift towards the rocks that hold brighter meaning for us.
While this may sound like a nice analogy, how do we make it a reality?
The key is open awareness meditation, a technique that encourages you to allow things to come into your awareness (such as sound, thought, or emotion) and allow them to leave again – or ultimately, swim towards and then swim away from.
Wellbeing guru Benjamin Decker explores the practice in his book, Practical Meditation for Beginners: 10 Days to a Happier, Calmer You, where he reveals the average individual thinks between 30,000 to 70,000 thoughts every single day.
That’s a lotta thought and suggest our brains are built to think to help us survive.
Ben explains: “What meditation does for us is begin to change our relationship to the thoughts occurring, especially as we gradually learn to consider them as sensory input rather than facts or events we need to respond to.
“Thoughts provide important information, but they are not fundamentally different from or more important than, say, the taste of pear or hearing a Mozart symphony.”
He continued: “This can be a difficult lesson to learn because thoughts present themselves as reflections of reality.
“In other words, they present themselves as true. But just because you think something doesn’t mean it’s true, or even particularly important.”
Consider you have just sent a text to a friend inviting them out and they don’t reply all day. You begin thinking they don’t like you and are concocting ways to get out of socialising with you. The next day, you receive a reply from your friend saying their family member fell sick. You realise the story you told yourself was not factual.
It is this kind of thought process that Decker challenges so we have a healthy perspective of all the rocks in our lake – not just the one we are clinging to.
Similarly, if you have negative thoughts about your intelligence or success, then mindfulness can teach you that you are more than your own thinking with the goal to recognise you are not your thoughts, you are the thinker of the thoughts.
Decker explained: “Open awareness meditation will make you more aware of the thoughts passing through your mind. By holding an open-focus awareness, you create a larger mental ‘container’ for your thoughts to pass through.
“Gradually, with regular practice, mindfulness will give you the opportunity to more clearly see and experience the many layers of your thinking process.”
He continued: “When we are resistant to something, we have a biological tendency to ‘brace for impact’ which means we withdraw and tighten the muscles in our body.
“When we are open to something, we tend to be more curious and even more willing to embrace the unknown, which leaves the body more at ease.”
By practicing open awareness meditation, Decker says you will notice immediate benefits, not only by boosting emotional intelligence to distance yourself from your thoughts, but also a decrease in depression, reduced stress, and improved sleep.
To jump aboard the Chill Out Express, check out Decker’s instructions below.
- Set your timer for five minutes
- Allow your eyes to gently close
- Feel your breath as your lungs expand and contract
- Notice the sensations along the surface of your skin, feeling the air in the room
- Bring your awareness to the space above your head, noticing any sounds or movement in the space above you
- Move your awareness to the space below you, noticing where your body touches the cushion or floor and notice any subtle vibrations from the floor
- Keeping your body in a restful stillness, bring your awareness to the space in front of you, as far as your senses can reach
- Next, notice any sounds or movement to your right
- Move your awareness to the space behind you, filling the room, even expanding beyond the room to any sounds on the other side of the walls
- Move your awareness to your left
- Envision your awareness as a glow in all directions around you, mentally scanning all directions at once and simply witnessing the moment as it is
- If the mind wanders, bring your awareness back to the breath as it expands and contracts, and expand your awareness in all directions around you from there
Once you’ve completed these steps, you can gently open your eyes and observe any particular thoughts or memories that came to mind or stood out.
Using your newfound inner peace, you can now set an intention for the day, such as, ‘And now I am going to have a positive workday’, safe in the knowledge that any negative thoughts that enter your mind are rocks that you can swim away from.