MBCT Week 6

This week we explored the concept that THOUGHTS ARE NOT FACTS! What a wonderful revelation this is! We looked in more detail at how we can become the observer of our thoughts during our mindfulness practice and how we could use imagery to visualise those thoughts passing on by.

 

Stepping back from thought:

This extract explains why it can be so valuable to watch our thoughts:

It is remarkable how liberating it feels to be able to see that your thoughts are just thoughts and not “you” or “reality.” For instance, if you have the thought that you must get a certain number of things done today and you don’t recognize it as a thought, but act as if it’s “the truth,” then you have created in that moment a reality in which you really believe that those things must all be done today. One patient, Peter, who’d had a heart attack and wanted to prevent another one, came to a dramatic realization of this one night, when he found himself washing his car at 10 o’clock at night with the floodlights on in the driveway. It struck him that he didn’t have to be doing this. It was just the inevitable result of a whole day spent trying to fit everything in that he thought needed doing today. As he saw what he was doing to himself, he also saw that he had been unable to question the truth of his original conviction that everything had to get done today, because he was already so completely caught up in believe it. If you find yourself behaving similar ways, it is likely that you will also feel driven, tense, and anxious without even knowing why, just as Peter did. So if the thought of how much you have to get done today comes up while you are meditating, you will have to be very attentive to it as a thought or you may be up and doing things before you know it, without any awareness that you decided to stop sitting simply because a thought came through your mind.

On the other hand, when such a thought comes up, if you are able to step back from it and see it clearly, then you will be able to prioritize things and make sensible decisions about what really does need doing. You will know when to call it quits during the day. So the simple act of recognizing your thoughts as thoughts can free you from the distorted reality they often create and allow for more clear-sightedness and a greater sense of manageability in your life.

This liberation from the tyranny of the thinking mind comes directly out of the meditation practice itself. When we spend some time each day in a state of non-doing, observing the flow of the breath and the activity of our mind and body, without getting caught up in that activity, we are cultivating calmness and mindfulness hand in hand. As the mind develops stability and is less caught up in the content of thinking, we strengthen the mind’s ability to concentrate and to be calm. And if each time we recognize a thought as a thought when it arises and register its content and discern the strength of its hold on us and the accuracy of its content, then each time we let go of it and come back to our breathing and a sense of our body, we are strengthening mindfulness. We come to know ourselves better and become more accepting of ourselves, not as we would like to be, but as we actually are.
— Jon Kabat-Zinn

Imagery for thoughts!

When you are practicing mindfulness you may like to visualise your thoughts as clouds crossing the sky or leaves floating down a stream. Some people like to imagine they are words projected on a cinema screen or actors walking on and off a stage. Whatever imagery works best for you have a go at using it when you practice your meditations.

 

The meditations

Here’s a reminder of the meditations we did this week. I have also included the “mountain meditation” which is lovely and I highly recommend you listening to :)

The THREE MINUTE BREATHING SPACE

Why we do it!:

This meditation is an absolutely gem especially if you are new to mindfulness practice. Try and practice it at least once a day. It is short sweet and can be done anywhere (even on the loo!). Notice whether you feel different after to before.

 

Sitting with difficulty

Why we do it!

This mediation is about sitting with something the brings about an uncomfortable feeling in us. It is important because we are so used to pushing stuff away that we don’t want in our lives (aversion). Ironically this pushing away often makes the situation worse (remember WHAT RESISTS PERSISTS).

 

Mountain meditation

Why we do it!

This meditation is a beautiful way to become the observer of your thoughts. It gets you to imagine you are a mountain and your thoughts are the seasons and weather passing on by. This is one of my favourites :)

 

Becoming aware of negative thoughts

Through watching our thoughts we can start to become aware of negative thoughts, and understand that they are NOT FACTS. Remember the following scenarios:

Scenario 1

You have just had a meeting with your boss in which you were reprimanded and told that your performance was inadequate. As you leave the office a colleague in the office rushes past you saying the don’t have time to stop and chat. What is your reaction?

Scenario 2

You have just had a meeting with your boss in which you were praised and told that your performance was exceptional. As you leave the office a colleague in the office rushes past you saying the don’t have time to stop and chat. What is your reaction?

Often our reaction to exactly the same situation (in this case a colleague not stopping to chat) may be completely different DEPENDING ON OUR MOOD.

This is really important because it demonstrates again how important it is that we do not assume that our thoughts are true.

A reframe

When you may be confusing a thought with fact you may find one of the following a helpful way to reframe it:

  • Perhaps I am confusing a thought with a fact?

  • Perhaps I am jumping to conclusions?

  • Perhaps I am thinking in black-and-white terms?

  • Perhaps I am condemning myself totally because of one thing?

  • Perhaps I am concentrating on my weaknesses and forgetting my strengths?

  • Perhaps I am blaming myself for something that isn’t my fault?

  • Perhaps I am judging myself?

  • Perhaps I am setting unrealistically high standards for myself so that I will fail?

  • Perhaps I am mind reading/crystal ball gazing?

  • Perhaps I am expecting perfection?

  • Perhaps I am overestimating disaster?

So perhaps you could notice that that negative thought is JUST A THOUGHT and allow it to float on by?

HOWEVER BEWARE!…

Once you have spotted a negative thought. YOU DON’T NEED TO ANALYSE THAT THOUGHT. Analysing it or arguing with it will just get you in a muddle. Just simply allow that thought to pass on by using your chosen imagery (cloud/leaf/actor/words on a screen) knowing now that it is of no use to you.

Think how liberating this could be if we did it with all the negative thoughts we had! Remember the list of our own negative thoughts (depressed or anxious thoughts) we explored before. Wouldn’t life look different if we didn’t get lost in these thoughts!?

 

Home practice

This week try and listen to both the mountain meditation and if you can the sitting with difficulty meditation once (remember to pick a SMALL difficulty).

Also practice the 3 minute breathing space AT LEAST once a day. You won’t regret it. Use the emergency version if you’re in a tricky situation.

Also practice the “Letting go of difficult feelings” exercise I taught you AGAIN. I suggest you practice practice practice this and let me know if you get stuck with anything. You won’t regret it!

I hope you find this all helpful. Any questions please ask!

I look forward to seeing you next week.

Kate :)