Thoughts affect our emotions, of that there is no doubt. Many therapeutic interventions are based on this premise. In cognitive therapy, we are trained to monitor our thoughts and evaluate their validity. Then we deliberately question the negative or toxic thinking that can lead to a low mood. Positive psychology asks that we focus our attention on the good things, trying to remain more optimistic and grateful. These techniques are powerful and effective. But we are still going to have negative thoughts and sometimes we are still going to feel bad.
We can choose what thoughts get our attention, but we can’t choose what thoughts pop into our minds. Sometimes negative, judgmental and mean thoughts will arise. We also can’t control everything that happens in life. Sometimes bad stuff will happen to us or someone we love, and we will feel bad. These things are beyond our control. Even though most of us understand these facts on a rational level, we may still desperately wish things were different. We push and shove against reality, trying to control our experience. Or we hide, stuffing down the thoughts and emotions that we have decided are bad. Neither approach changes the circumstances, but both will eventually create problems for us.
What if we took a different approach? Mindfulness and iRest Yoga Nidra teach us that the present moment is all there is. What if we just accept whatever arises during this moment? Feeling sad? Welcome the sadness. Sit with it and feel it. Ask it why it’s present in this moment, and what it needs you to do. In this way, the feeling is acknowledged. We can learn from and eventually move past it. A regular meditation practice reveals that thoughts are transient. They come into the mind, and if we don’t attach to them or hide from them, they will eventually move on. The same is true with feelings and emotions. They aren’t fixed states, and they don’t define or control us. When we have received their message, eventually they will also move on. What a revelation! There is no longer a need to sort out and decide what is acceptable. Simply welcome it all into this moment, and know that it will pass. But by then we will be busy living in that moment, welcoming and learning what it has to offer before it passes. Life is a series of moments. Welcome each one.