I’ve been getting carried away on the thought train. Which is different to a train of thought. A train of thought implies, to me, a sense of consciously following something to a specific destination; a way of working something out. But recently my thoughts have been more like high-speed, careering locomotives, sucking me off the ‘witness’ platform as they pass and dragging me down a track I’m not sure I want to be going down. By witness platform, I mean that part of my consciousness that when connected to, allows me to witness my thoughts as just that; thoughts.
There are many factors contributing to how firmly my feet stay planted on the witness platform. What I ate or drank a few hours earlier (or the night before if I happen to get whisked away on a thought train before I even get out of bed) is one of them. Sugar is notorious for playing havoc with our moods; for me refined or high GI foods (carbohydrates that rapidly convert into sugars) can often be the reason I get hooked by a passing, usually unhelpful, thought. Another factor affecting how peacefully a thought can pass me by is my environment; depending on my sensitivity I may be influenced by the people I’m engaged with or by the energetics of the room or place. Have you ever noticed how in some rooms, or around certain people, you don’t feel clear or you notice yourself feeling down? It doesn’t mean that the person or place is bad for you, but shows you that certain aspects of that person or room are challenging your ability to stay connected, present and relaxed. It could be the umpteen wifi signals, the fact that the person you’re talking to is always moaning, or a hundred other things. But what matters in the moment, perhaps more than the reason behind it, is your ability to notice your thoughts and how they’re being affected. Another factor that determines how affected by a thought we are is whether or not it’s pressing one of our buttons. Our buttons, or karmas, are those inner hotspots that get triggered by outside events. And they’re unique to us. We may share similar karmas (take over-eating as an example) but our karmas are particular to us; they point out the parts of us in need of strengthening in order to hold more energy — to be who we are capable of being. Which is why one thought might pass swiftly through one person’s station without so much as a ripple whilst another gets completely knocked off of their feet by it. So it’s a combination of our energy levels at the time (right food, enough sleep, harmonious environment) along with the nature of our karmas that define our capacity to stay rooted in the magic of the present moment — regardless of what thoughts we’re witnessing.
My food, environment and sleep are something I’m pretty good at working to my advantage. Yet recently, despite eating well, being in the right place and having had enough sleep I still found myself getting hooked in and dragged down by certain thoughts. So I turned to the experts. A friend recommended I check out Byron Katie, a modern master of separating the suffering out of our thoughts. And I must say how brilliantly helpful I found it. Katie introduces four questions that trigger a process which can’t help but diffuse the ‘power’ that we sometimes assign to our thoughts. The first question being, is it true? I was surprised to discover just how often I answer ‘no’ to that question. But whilst ‘The Work‘ takes some time, energy and commitment, something about the way Katie writes brings me a sense of relief, lightness and humour. As I read her book, Loving What Is, I found myself smiling, sighing (with relief) and at times even crying as the powerful simplicity of her insights poured off the page and into my awareness. Where, hopefully, these insights now sit, working their way into my everyday life.
As it was such a help for me over the past couple of weeks I thought I’d pass it on. I’m finding myself less wobbled by the thought trains as they come and go, and perhaps more importantly, I’m less inclined to keep adding carriages of meaning and attachment to them. Which is a good thing. Instead, when I notice myself getting dragged away from the present moment, I ask myself, is it true? Often, just the act of initiating the four questions is enough to prevent me getting swept away. (And if I’m honest, I’m busy. The thought of spending time working out the four questions is enough motivation to stop me in my tracks and choose to put my energy into something else instead!) If your thoughts are having their way with you and distracting you from having your own, higher-energy way with yourself, then I hope it helps. It did me.
p.s. Unfortunately I’m unable to make it, but if you want to go deeper with ‘the work’ Byron Katie’s giving a 1-day workshop in London on the 16th July!