The body is ever changing. From one second to the next cells are dying, growing. Blood circulating, heart changing beats, sensations picking up different sensory experiences. The body is essentially fleeting.
Same goes for the mind. Fleeting.
Our thoughts do not define who we are. We tend to identify with the thoughts in our minds, creating false or exaggerated versions of reality. The more energy that is given to a thought or group of thoughts, the more we tend to identify AS that thought. We believe those thoughts ARE reality. Yet again, our thoughts are only a perception, a perception that can change in a fleeting moment.
Rather, there is something within us that remains the same. Something constant inside of us that isn’t just our thoughts or mind or family label or job description or the amount in the bank or the address where we live. A part of the self that we are born into this world as and leave this world as. This constant is our inner self, no matter our thoughts or labels or environmental factors.
This all relates to the intention I have been reciting along with my classes over the last number of weeks. "I have these thoughts, BUT I am NOT these thoughts."
You can’t change the fact of difficulty, loss, and heartbreak, and you can’t change that those things may cause you mental, physical, and emotional pain. But, with effort, you can change your reactions and your responses when life takes these turns. If you use your suffering as an opportunity to begin a process of inquiry and self-connection, you’ll cultivate insights and tools to prepare you for whatever may come. Rather than becoming your thoughts, rather than creating a false reality you can begin a journey that relies on the inner light of goodness of the inner self. The yogi knows not to look outside the self for complete peace, but peace lies within through the divine gift of the inner
"I have these thoughts, BUT I am NOT these thoughts."
The practice of yoga offers tools to ignite the process of inquiry and self-connection. Breath to mind and body connection. Through yoga, a student can calm the breath which calms the body which calms the mind - letting all those thoughts fall away to leave the authentic self to shine. Yoga gives the gift of a calm mind, even in perceived chaos, by teaching us to let go and bring awareness to the moment. In this expanded state, we experience freedom from suffering. Remembering the essential and pure inner self that is always there, and life becomes more joyful, meaningful, and carefree.
Another tool of our tech times that I've found helpful when I'm not able to be on the mat or in a space for breathwork is a free app called FreeCBT that you can get in any app store :) I really love it and I'm even trying to get my 13 year old on board with it. It grounds me in the present and clears away the garbage thinking that I may be having or perceiving around a situation giving me clarity to the realization that "I have these thoughts, BUT I am NOT these thoughts," and that life is just as it should be! See below the description from the app about the easy to use details :)
FreeCBT can help you feel a lot better if you let it. But it's something you have to learn about and it's something you have to practice.
We recommended you read this entirely; the investment is worth it.
How to use FreeCBT
FreeCBT's exercise is simple, yet quite effective. When you're feeling depressed, anxious, or otherwise not-great, pull out FreeCBT.
It looks like this:
Record your automatic thought
Select any distortions
Record a challenge to your thought
Record an alternative thought
1. Record your automatic thought
Almost every time when you're feeling bad, it's caused by or being made worse by "automatic" negative thoughts.
This could be small, like "I'm having a crappy day" or big like "I'm worthless." These thoughts are normal but not necessarily trustworthy.
By writing down your thought, you're separating it from yourself and giving yourself the ability to examine it skeptically.
2. Notice any distortions
Mental health professionals have classified a number of ways our thoughts can be distorted. They call these "Cognitive Distortions" and there's a list of them here.
If you're feeling not-great, it's very likely your thoughts are distorted.
Look back at the times you've been anxious, angry, depressed or afraid before. How often were your thoughts true in the moment? Did the thing you worried about come true? If it did, was it as bad as you thought?
So often, the fact that we're physically feeling the sensations of anger, depression, anxiety or fear is good evidence that our thoughts are distorted.
3. Record a challenge to your thought
With the distortions you've noted, write down what seems inaccurate about your thought. If someone else had approached you with this thought, what would you tell them?
Only write down what you actually believe. If your thought was "I'm going to fail this interview," your challenge should not be "I'm not going to fail this interview."
Instead, your challenge should be "I don't know that I will fail this interview, but even if I do, it will be fine since I've gained experience for the next interview."
Your distorted thoughts are by definition not 100% true; you can't challenge them by lying to yourself in the opposite direction.
4. Record an alternative thought
Finally, you'll record an alternative thought. Given this situation again, what could you think?
If your automatic thought was "I'll bet I'll fail this interview" your alternative thought might be "I'll wait to be concerned until I know if I failed. In the meantime, I'll apply to more jobs."
An alternative thought is a chance to give a new reaction to the situation.
Okay, now what?
It's time to really start noticing how you're feeling. If you're not doing well, remember, you have FreeCBT now.
It's often very hard to remember to do some silly exercise when you're wrapped up in the moment. This will take practice.
Will I feel better right away?
Sometimes, but not always.
But if your thought has been looming around for awhile, you'll probably still feel upset. That's fine and that's normal.
You just give your body some time to recover. A good strategy is to do the exercise, then set a timer for 20 minutes.
As you use FreeCBT more, you'll notice you have less of these negative thoughts. When you do have them, they won't "spiral down" like they used to.
This is something you have to practice and it will take time.
Written by Brooke Halperin
Join Brooke every Tuesday at 430pm at Good Juju Lombard. Sign up at Goodjujuyoga.com