Thoughts are things and they matter more than we’ve been led to believe.  They are our private, constant companions.  Thoughts also happen to be an integral part of our reality.  They are so powerful that they alter our body chemistry.  Our thoughts create emotions.  Strong emotions create chemicals in our bodies to support that emotion.  When we worry or are frustrated by life’s circumstances, or angry or fearful that something may or may not happen, our bodies go into stress mode and chemicals that support a fight or flight response, like adrenaline and cortisol, are released into your bloodstream and affect every cell in your body.  This hard-wired system of self-preservation is great when you are up against a real threat to your existence; not so helpful when the stress is self-inflicted and long term.  The end result of stress hormones released over a long time in the body is dis-ease.  Homeostasis is lost.  Until relatively recently, the connection between the mind and body has been largely ignored in the west.  Now science is proving that our thoughts affect us profoundly.  We know that when we experience emotions such as joy, love, or gratitude, our body produces chemicals for growth.  In fact, our thoughts pave the way for how we experience reality.  We get more of what we think and emote.  Unfortunately, this very relative piece of information has been kept from the majority of us for far too long.  It’s time we took inventory of our thoughts.

Me with mom and dad around 1980.

When I was growing up, I wasn’t taught much about my thoughts, except maybe what not to think.  I was raised by a strict Catholic mother and an agnostic father.  My mother ruled in the ‘what to teach our children about stuff nobody knows’ aka religious department so we went to church every Sunday, parochial school from sixth to twelfth grades, and followed all the rules; like no meat on Fridays during Lent, no food an hour before communion, and confession every week.  For those who don’t know what confession is, I must explain briefly.  In the back of every Catholic church are very small rooms, a little bigger than those photo booths you might find at an amusement park that spit your pictures out in a strip.  Two of these tiny rooms flank a central cubicle where the priest sits.  There is a screen inside the size of a small window that he opens so he can hear you recite all your sins, but he can also close it when someone on the other side is reciting their sins so that you can’t eavesdrop.  I was taught that having ‘impure thoughts’ was a sin, along with the usual suspects, breaking any of the ten commandments. To this day, I’m not exactly sure what constitutes an impure thought since that was never clearly explained; and I sure wasn’t going to ask the nun who taught our religion class or the priest in the cubicle! 

A confessional

So, in my early years, it was imprinted onto my subconscious that thinking certain things was bad and every week I would confess to the priest that I had had impure thoughts, even though I didn’t know which thoughts I shouldn’t be thinking, I had to cover my bases!  I was also inflicted by a runaway mind, it never stopped thinking!  I would stay awake at night running all kinds of scenarios through my head:  What I could have done differently in a certain situation?  What I should do in a future situation?  I was also a huge worrier most of my life.  I worried about my dysfunctional family.  I worried about all kinds of things that were fully beyond my control.  What I didn’t realize then, and what I would have loved to have known, is that all this thinking, or self-talk, is completely unnecessary and counterproductive to living a joyous, peaceful life.  There is another way to live:  Instead of your thoughts running your life, you can control the thoughts you think and direct your mind to live consciously and in the moment. It takes effort and practice but it is so worth it.

You can think of your thoughts and self-talk like a tape recorder that turns on when you wake up every morning and runs through all your biggest hits until you eventually fall asleep at night.  Some of your biggest hits may include songs like:  I’m not good enough, rich enough, big enough, small enough or If only I had ___ I would be happy or I’m lacking in some way, or I would never be able to do that.  You get the idea.  Most of our self-talk is limiting.  Most of our beliefs about ourselves are limiting.  This creates a self-limiting reality!  It’s time we woke up to our divine nature and realized that we are THE MOST POWERFUL CREATORS we know.  It is our birthright to experience whatever our heart desires.

How do you stop the craziness?  The first step is awareness.  Notice what you spend your time and energy thinking about throughout the day.  When you become irritated, notice what thoughts you’re having.  Likely, you’re experiencing a situation that is going completely contrary to your expectations.  Take several slow, deep breaths and consciously modify your perception of that experience.  Become an observer and take your preferences out of the picture.  Now you are in the moment and you are experiencing the moment for what it has to offer you, not as a situation to be manipulated and changed to suit your preferences.  Sounds so easy, right?  It’s not, but it does get easier with practice.  You might be saying, well what about when such and such happens, or so and so does this?  They make me say/do so and so.  All excuses.  You must take responsibility for what goes on inside your head regardless of what’s going on outside it.  Once you can master your thoughts and emotions at all times, even when someone pushes your buttons, you will feel incredibly empowered and you will be happier with one less button to push you off your center.  I’m not saying to stop caring about anyone or anything, but I am saying to stop having such an emotional attachment to what other people say and do.  It’s simply a shift in perspective.  

The dunes at St. Joe Peninsula State Park in the panhandle.

So here’s the challenge:  The very next time you become irritated at someone or something, take a moment and stop.  Breathe deeply and slowly a few times while you step outside yourself and become an observer, passively watching the scene unfold.  Get your emotions, disguised as preferences, out of the way.  Flip your internal switch and choose to have no particular reaction to the situation.  Depending on the size of the irritation, or the amount of emotional involvement you have in the situation, you might need to remove yourself and take some time to reflect and reset.  It is empowering!


Heather aka Indigo Girl