Mindfulness meditation can seem intimidating and inaccessible. Sitting down for several minutes at a time can seem unappealing to most people, especially since it entails confronting your thoughts. But does mindfulness mean controlling your thoughts?
Contrary to popular belief, mindfulness means letting go of your thoughts and allowing your mind to simply run free. When we realize that it is the ego that traps us and that our true identity is our pure consciousness, we release ourselves from our fears, traumas, and negative thought patterns.
Here’s a little breakdown, for you to understand it better.
What is the ego?
By now, you’re probably quite familiar with that little voice in your head. This voice is the source of our fears, doubts, traumas, and negative thought patterns. This voice is called the ego.
Spiritual teacher and author Eckhart Tolle describes the ego as “thought and emotional patterns that are persistently repeated.” These thoughts and emotions are repeated because we identify with or attach ourselves to them.
Anything we attach ourselves to becomes a source of suffering, even if it may be a “good” thing. For example, you may feel attached to your career. You may feel that your identity is your career. The thoughts and emotions associated with this attachments comprise the ego.
When your career hits a road bump, you may find yourself lost, confused, anxious, and even depressed. Who are you, outside of your career? If you find yourself attached to a relationship, you may also find yourself depressed after it is over. Who are you, outside of a relationship?
So who are we, really?
Know that you are not the mind, and you are not your emotions either. Our true self is consciousness. But how do we access consciousness?
Consciousness is simply awareness, and we have the capacity to access this awareness. When we catch a negative thought pattern, we become fully cognizant of the ego. When we are able to take a step back from our emotions and reassess, we use our consciousness.
Accessing the consciousness does not mean judging our thoughts and feelings. Remember that judgment is also the doing of the ego, and that judgment is another form of attachment. When we judge our thoughts, feelings, or situation, we stamp and attach a label to it. This causes resistance, and resistance causes even more suffering.
To truly access the consciousness, we must simply observe. Think of it like sitting by the roadside and watching the cars go by, or lying on the grass and watching the clouds pass. The next time you catch yourself thinking negatively, observe the thought as though it were simply passing through.
So, does mindfulness mean controlling the thoughts?
No, absolutely not. Tell yourself: The point of mindfulness is not to control my thoughts and emotions. The point of mindfulness is to free ourselves of these!
We often think our thoughts and emotions have power over us. But when we access our consciousness and practice mindfulness, we realize that there is another layer to us—another part to us that isn’t that tiny voice. The illusion that is our thoughts and emotions fades away!
Meditation and mindful habits can help reduce and quiet down the ego. However, do know that we can never truly silence and banish the ego. We can only observe it, and even look at it with love and compassion.
Instead of resisting the ego, try and be curious about it instead. Catch yourself in the midst of the negative thought. Then, observe the thought. Then, ask yourself: I notice that I have this thought. Why am I having this thought? What emotions does this thought bring about? Where do I feel this emotion?
Of course, the final question you should ask yourself is: How can I be more patient towards my ego? How can I practice more love and understanding?
Know that you do not have to answer these questions. In fact, observe how one thought jumps to the next. The practice of observing these thoughts and softening them is enough to reclaim your consciousness and set yourself free.
Mindfulness takes practice.
If you can’t get it in one try, don’t worry about it! Mindfulness is ultimately a practice that takes years to master—and many don’t even reach the point of mastery!
Practice meditation and use it not as a way to conquer your thoughts, but to simply hold them in a softer light. This way, we learn to live with the ego and not against it.