Transform Negative Thoughts with Meditation

Even your negative thoughts want you to find inner peace.

Thoughts are intangible, private, and invisible, yet they have tremendous power to influence the course of your life. Every day, you experience up to 70,000 of all varieties of thoughts positive and negative, caring and hurtful according to research from the University of Southern California’s Laboratory of Neuro Imaging. Thoughts enable you to feel hope and connection, as well as fear and isolation. They make you believe you’re capable of great things, or that you’re so helpless you’ll never amount to anything. As the inventor and the automobile pioneer Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t you’re right.”In large part, thoughts get their power of influence from your body’s reaction to them: Every time you have a thought, whether it’s “I’m capable” or “I’m helpless,” your body responds by secreting hormones that impact your entire nervous system. For example, when you think you’re being intimidated (say, you believe someone is breaking into your home), your body secretes cortisol to get you ready to flee or the fight. Or, else, imagine being profoundly relaxed (maybe snuggling with a favorite pet); in this scenario, your body produces oxytocin and serotonin, feel-good hormones that help you find security and ease.

In large part, thoughts get their power of influence from your body’s reaction to them: Every time you have a thought, whether it’s “I’m capable” or “I’m helpless,” your body responds by secreting hormones that impact your entire nervous system. For example, when you think you’re being intimidated (say, you believe someone is breaking into your home), your body secretes cortisol to get you ready to flee or the fight. Or, else, imagine being profoundly relaxed (maybe snuggling with a favorite pet); in this scenario, your body produces oxytocin and serotonin, feel-good hormones that help you find security and ease.So it stands to reason that if you can change your thinking or shift your perspective such that your thoughts lean toward the positive, your body will respond by helping you feel more upbeat, and therefore more connected to the world around you. Sounds simple enough, but truly changing your thoughts takes incredible concentration, determination, and courage. Working with your thoughts is much like encountering a mountain lion in the wild. When you see that big cat, your first instinct may be to run, but really you’re supposed to stand your ground and make yourself look large in the face of the feline threat. But if you run from a mountain lion or your thoughts it will likely give chase. For instance, thoughts like “I’m powerless” and “I’m afraid” tend to follow you until you’re willing to turn around and face them. Much like trying to get away a mountain lion, fleeing your thoughts is finally futile they will always catch up with you. Your best defense is being prepared.

So it stands to reason that if you can change your thinking or shift your perspective such that your thoughts lean toward the positive, your body will respond by helping you feel more upbeat, and therefore more connected to the world around you. Sounds simple enough, but truly changing your thoughts takes incredible concentration, determination, and courage. Working with your thoughts is much like encountering a mountain lion in the wild. When you see that big cat, your first instinct may be to run, but really you’re supposed to stand your ground and make yourself look large in the face of the feline threat. But if you run from a mountain lion or your thoughts it will likely give chase. For instance, thoughts like “I’m powerless” and “I’m afraid” tend to follow you until you’re willing to turn around and face them. Much like trying to get away a mountain lion, fleeing your thoughts is finally futile they will always catch up with you. Your best defense is being prepared.Just as wilderness training enables you for a possible mountain lion collision, meditation readies you to deal with your thoughts. It teaches you how to stay calm when your initial thoughts and reactions are intense and potentially negative; it can help you face your thoughts by teaching you to observe before responding. By sitting with your emotions and working with your breath, meditation allows you to see each thought as a messenger with information on how to respond in a way that helps you feel in harmony with yourself and the world around you. For example, unassertive thoughts like “I’m helpless” or “I’m not enough” can be understood instead as signals that you should stop and reflect on what you can do to feel sufficient and capable.

Just as wilderness training enables you for a possible mountain lion collision, meditation readies you to deal with your thoughts. It teaches you how to stay calm when your initial thoughts and reactions are intense and potentially negative; it can help you face your thoughts by teaching you to observe before responding. By sitting with your emotions and working with your breath, meditation allows you to see each thought as a messenger with information on how to respond in a way that helps you feel in harmony with yourself and the world around you. For example, unassertive thoughts like “I’m helpless” or “I’m not enough” can be understood instead as signals that you should stop and reflect on what you can do to feel sufficient and capable.To that end, next time you found yourself thinking something like “I’m hateful,” slow down and send loving-kindness and mercy to yourself for doing the best job you can. When you genuinely hear and respond to the inherent messages your thoughts are transferred, negative conception will start to fade, having to function their purpose, instead of chasing you and wearing you down. I call this practice Welcoming Opposite Thoughts, and it is an exact way to help you avoid bogging down in a bog of negative ideas. It will also help you grow your capability for experiencing both positive and negative thoughts, images, and memories as messengers here to help you find an unflappable peace within.

To that end, next time you found yourself thinking something like “I’m hateful,” slow down and send loving-kindness and mercy to yourself for doing the best job you can. When you genuinely hear and respond to the inherent messages your thoughts are transferred, negative conception will start to fade, having to function their purpose, instead of chasing you and wearing you down. I call this practice Welcoming Opposite Thoughts, and it is an exact way to help you avoid bogging down in a bog of negative ideas. It will also help you grow your capability for experiencing both positive and negative thoughts, images, and memories as messengers here to help you find an unflappable peace within.

A meditation class in Chandra Yoga International

A meditation class in Chandra Yoga International

Meditation Practice for Welcoming Opposite Thoughts

Recall that every thought gives rise to physical sensations. When you believe “I’m broken” or it’s opposite, “I’m OK as I am,” you feel a certain way in your body. Your heart contracts or opens. Your gut tightens or relaxes. You feel sad and deflated, or happy and energetic. The contemplative practice of Welcoming Opposite Thoughts invites you to tune into the sensations associated with each of your thoughts, sanctioning you to think about a wider spectrum of prospects. You can use the practice anytime you catch yourself in a negative thinking pattern, whether that is during your meditation practice or in everyday life. During the following exercise, take

Recall that every thought gives rise to physical sensations. When you believe “I’m broken” or it’s opposite, “I’m OK as I am,” you feel a certain way in your body. Your heart contracts or opens. Your gut tightens or relaxes. You feel sad and deflated, or happy and energetic. The contemplative practice of Welcoming Opposite Thoughts invites you to tune into the sensations associated with each of your thoughts, sanctioning you to think about a wider spectrum of prospects. You can use the practice anytime you catch yourself in a negative thinking pattern, whether that is during your meditation practice or in everyday life. During the following exercise, take time to welcome a particular thought, image, or memory, and notice where and how it impacts your mind and body.

With your eyes lightly closed or open, welcome the atmosphere and the sounds around you: the contact of air with your skin, the sense of your body breathing, the thoughts that are present in your mind and their concomitant sensations within your body.

Dig up a particular thought that you occasionally take to be true about yourself, such as “I’m broken,” “I’m not enough,” “I should have done it differently,” or “I’m powerless.”How and where do you feel in your body when you take this opinion to be your only reality? Do you feel it in your heart, gut, or throat? Do you feel tense, relaxed, closed, or open?

How and where do you feel in your body when you take this opinion to be your only reality? Do you feel it in your heart, gut, or throat? Do you feel tense, relaxed, closed, or open?Now welcome an opposite thought. “I’m not enough” becomes “I’m OK just as I am.” “I should have done it differently” becomes “I’m always doing the best I know how.” “I’m broken” becomes “I’m whole.” And “I’m powerless” becomes “I’m capable.”

Now welcome an opposite thought. “I’m not enough” becomes “I’m OK just as I am.” “I should have done it differently” becomes “I’m always doing the best I know how.” “I’m broken” becomes “I’m whole.” And “I’m powerless” becomes “I’m capable.”Affirm this opposite thought as your sole reality. Where and how do you feel it in your body? Do you feel it in your gut, heart, or throat? Do you feel relaxed, tense, open, or closed?

Affirm this opposite thought as your sole reality. Where and how do you feel it in your body? Do you feel it in your gut, heart, or throat? Do you feel relaxed, tense, open, or closed?Take your time, experiencing each other in turn, and then both opposites at the same time, all the while inspecting how and where this practice affects your mind and body. (A hint: Do not stress if you cannot prove opposites with your thinking mind it is not possible. Instead, experience and feel opposing thoughts at the same time, along with the impact they have in your body, letting whatever happens to happen. Keeping opposites at the same time takes you beyond either opposite into a world of creative insight.

Take your time, experiencing each other in turn, and then both opposites at the same time, all the while inspecting how and where this practice affects your mind and body. (A hint: Do not stress if you cannot prove opposites with your thinking mind it is not possible. Instead, experience and feel opposing thoughts at the same time, along with the impact they have in your body, letting whatever happens to happen. Keeping opposites at the same time takes you beyond either opposite into a world of creative insight.Now, consider intentions and actions that you wish to manifest in your daily life as a result of this practice. For example, here’s what Julie, a meditation student, and cancer patient, discovered when she meditated on opposite thoughts:

Now, consider intentions and actions that you wish to manifest in your daily life as a result of this practice. For example, here’s what Julie, a meditation student, and cancer patient, discovered when she meditated on opposite thoughts: Julie meditated on her beliefs “I’m a failure,” “I’m unlovable,” and “I’m unable to affect the course of my cancer treatment” with the intention of finding comfort from the racing thoughts she was experiencing. She felt sad, fearful, and stuck in these negative beliefs. But then indicating upon their opposites “I’m OK as I am,” “I’m lovable,” and “I’m capable” helped her to feel uplifted, even as she remained fearful.

Julie meditated on her beliefs “I’m a failure,” “I’m unlovable,” and “I’m unable to affect the course of my cancer treatment” with the intention of finding comfort from the racing thoughts she was experiencing. She felt sad, fearful, and stuck in these negative beliefs. But then indicating upon their opposites “I’m OK as I am,” “I’m lovable,” and “I’m capable” helped her to feel uplifted, even as she remained fearful.When Julie experienced two opposing beliefs at the same time being uplifted yet fearful she glowed with her insight: “I love it! I’m always doing the best I know how!” She realized that as “love itself,” she could tolerate being unloved and loved, and failing and succeeding at different times. These insights had a lasting effect on her life. She experienced an ever-increasing intimacy with others and herself, as she was no longer looking to others for love and wholeness, having found both things within.

When Julie experienced two opposing beliefs at the same time being uplifted yet fearful she glowed with her insight: “I love it! I’m always doing the best I know how!” She realized that as “love itself,” she could tolerate being unloved and loved, and failing and succeeding at different times. These insights had a lasting effect on her life. She experienced an ever-increasing intimacy with others and herself, as she was no longer looking to others for love and wholeness, having found both things within.

Guided Audio Meditation

Moving Forward

The challenge of Welcoming Opposite Thoughts is that your mind is capable of separating the negative from the positive, and this is where anguish arises. When your mind understands things to be distinct, such as being focused on half a pair of opposite beliefs or thinking of yourself as distinct from the world around you, you can feel uninvolved and alone. During meditation, you will know to welcome every thought as one expression of your inborn wholeness. Your mind may elude this understanding by thinking, “How could this thought be an expression of my completeness?” But every thought grows with its opposite within an aligned field of wholeness. When you welcome opposites at the same time, you can have a glimpse, as Julie did, of the truth that you don’t have to change your circumstances to experience real health, peace, and love.

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