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Awareness of thoughts

It is quite exceptional to be aware of a thought as it arises, occurs, and falls away. Generally we are not aware of our thoughts, yet we believe them, react to them, and live from them over and over again. It may sound outrageous to imagine yourself feeling happy or excited because you noticed a thought arise and fall away, and you didn’t get swept away by it. I assure you that being aware of a thought as it arises and falls away is quite an accomplishment.

I want to specifically focus on judgmental thoughts because they seem to cause us so much suffering. In our culture we have become so accustomed to hearing, speaking and thinking in judgments that they seem normal. Judgmental thoughts include opinions, evaluations, and what we think something means. Opinions (evaluations and meaning) in themselves are not a problem. In fact, discernment is a type of judgment: the ability to understand a situation clearly, or to decide what is wholesome or unwholesome. However, when we are attached to what we think something means and that meaning is painful to us, then the judgmental thought probably includes a component of reactivity. When we are reactive, we are not aware, nor do we have command of our mental faculties such as choice in how to respond.

Nonviolent Communication teaches us that the first step in communicating with others is to speak in observations, not judgments or evaluations. This is because when others hear judgments and our evaluations, they can be triggered themselves. Speaking in observations isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your reactions to a judgmental thought may come to your attention first. Once you feel reactive, (tense or angry) it is more difficult to communicate in a way that you (and the other person) will be satisfied with. You may need to find a place where you can reflect on the situation so you can untangle the emotions and thoughts before communicating.

To transform a judgmental thought, you first need to be aware of it.  This awareness might happen in stages. At first you might notice the effect of the thought in the body sensations that result from the thought. These body sensations might include tension, anxiety, anger and so on. Once you notice the feelings, become curious as to what preceded the body sensations. You may become aware of parts of the thought or you may become aware of a thought that actually follows after a more painful thought that hasn’t come to your awareness yet. Many of our strong judgmental thoughts have been with us for years (decades, even handed down generationally in our families) so they may take time and process to unpack and untangle.

You can practice several modalities to support you being aware of thoughts and to transform them without being swept away. These might include writing down the thought or body sensations as you become aware of them, having an intention to investigate further, meditation and meditation group, therapy and/or other guided support, heart practices, study, transformative practices, and so on.

Thoughts arise without your effort, and then they fall away without you causing it. If you are able to witness a thought without getting hooked by it you can witness with a sense of detachment. One thought arises, happens, then falls away, and then another takes its place. One moment you may be watching a thought, then the next thing you realize you were swept away. When you wake up, sometimes it feels as if you are out of your body, or over “there” some place. Good news, you are awake and aware, you noticed you were swept away. Deep breath, just notice where you are now and what is happening.

I encourage you to support yourself and be kind to yourself especially when working with judgmental thoughts. Include the intention to be aware, and consider ways to support your awareness, then watch as awareness arises, it is priceless!

Until Next Time,
Blessings, Love and Peace Matters,

Lori Woodley

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