When I started meditating about 15 years ago, one of the things that I found fascinating was how I had been talking to myself my entire life, but I was never aware of it. It just felt like this is my voice. This is what I’m saying.
But through meditation, I realized that, you know, these thoughts came to me and I didn’t control them, you know? And not all the thoughts that came to me were useful or true. Some of the stories we tell ourselves are kind and helpful, but others are negative and destructive. So it’s really important that we are aware of these.
One of the things that I learned is to ask the question “is this useful?” When thoughts come to you, first recognize that you don’t choose your thoughts. You know, that you’re heavily influenced by everything around you, your family, your parents, your friends, what you watch on TV. So when you ask yourself the question “is this useful?”, then you are giving yourself an opportunity to decide if you’re gonna pay attention to a thought or just let it pass.
Let’s say you’re feeling guilty about something you did. Is that useful? Well, it’s in the past, right? So you can’t undo what it’s done, but you can use that to maybe make it right, or make sure that you don’t make the same mistake again.
What about if you’re anxious? If you’re, you know, say freaking out about a test that is coming up. It could be useful in the sense that it’s alerting you, that something important is happening and you can pay attention to that. But once you’re aware that you have to study and prepare for the test, that’s no longer useful, and you don’t need to have that story in your head anymore.
It’s also important to understand that your thoughts are not your enemy. It’s important to make use of them, but don’t let them own you. So for example, the guilty you felt about something that happened in the past, you can reframe that as a learning opportunity, something that taught you something that made you a better person, something that helped you grow as a person, right? So you can reframe that guilt into something useful.