This morning I was on the bus. You may have heard of this bus, and likely even ridden it. It’s the Struggle Bus. ba-dum-tshh! (I may still be on it based on this writing…) I thought I dragged myself off of it to go practice acro yoga, but I continued to struggle. After my practice I usually climb for a bit, but I forgot my climbing gear and wound up just watching everyone else climb. I immediately felt like a loser and the floodgates of negativity and self-deprecation flew open. “You’re irresponsible for not remembering your climbing gear…you aren’t disciplined because you haven’t climbed in a week…why are you even here?...you might as well give up…now you’re wasting time.”
You get the idea.
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one.” – Albert Einstein
It is incredible how unrelenting our thoughts can be. Our brain’s job is to think, analyze and protect us. It is constantly absorbing information and interpreting it, and for most of my life I was unaware that this continuous dialogue was even happening. My thoughts were unchecked and often unconsciously accepted as truth. Unfortunately, this is the case for many people and it can be damaging or empowering, depending on what those thoughts are. A study was published by the National Science Foundation in 2005 that found on average a person’s daily thoughts are 80% negative and 95% repetitive. WHAT THE?! It can feel like a losing battle.
But…. Now what?
“Don’t believe everything you think.” – Allan Lokos
This can be pretty depressing and anxiety-inducing at the same time. If we’re unaware of our thoughts, there’s no chance of them being changed. Thankfully, awareness of these thoughts can be a game-changer! After I realized the barrage of terrible thoughts I was assaulting myself with, I paused and gave myself a moment to realize everything I was thinking, then consciously said, “those are lies.” I am responsible and disciplined. I should keep climbing, even if it is once a week, and I DO belong here. This flip gave me permission to release those detrimental thoughts and enjoy the rest of my time at the gym.
I know I am making this sound stupidly easy, but be warned; it is not. After years of negative thinking, I have essentially earned a black belt in the art of negative self-talk. I am a trained Jedi master, slowly trying to unlearn all the wrong ways to think about myself, relationships, and life in general. The process is slow and often painful, but the moments of freedom that come when I separate who I am from what I think, are priceless. Just like building muscle or learning a skilled trade, this practice of loving awareness takes time and dedication.
“What we dwell on is who we become.” -Oprah Winfrey
In yoga, we practice mindfulness as we move and breathe intentionally. When we connect to our bodies on that level, we can watch what comes up, acknowledge it without judgement and from that vantage point of awareness find an level of power and peace we've never known. At Old Town Yoga, our classes are a safe, loving space to practice this skill of loving awareness with the guidance of a teacher and support of your fellow students. On your own, this can be practiced as you move through your day. Even consciously noticing ONE “automatic” thought will empower you to decide if it is one you want to keep and believe, or one that should be discarded. After all, you are only the story you tell about yourself, so make it the best one you can imagine.