Sticky Thoughts? Change Your Mind

A wise teacher once told me, “You’re not responsible for all the thoughts that go through your mind. But you are responsible for the thoughts you keep there.”

Each of has a mind, and we all have emotions. What happens in our mind and emotions determines our inner climate. It’s not as if our inner climate was entirely the result of random weather patterns moving in from the far north. What goes on inside of us is very much up to us. Learning about how to manage our inner climate is part of the process of becoming a more conscious human being. It also tends to make us a lot happier. So let me ask you, how’s the weather in there?

I’ve spoken about clearing the emotions in various ways in previous podcast episodes. Today I’m going to talk about changing your thoughts, and I’ll suggest a simple technique you can use for doing that.

There is a mechanical device used on various kinds of engines called a flywheel. I mention it because the mind is a lot like a flywheel. A flywheel is, as you might imagine, a wheel that spins around, and its main characteristic is that once you get it to start spinning, it tends to keep spinning. Our mind has that same characteristic.

Once we get started thinking about something, it’s often hard to stop thinking about it. This is especially true of certain kinds of thoughts – thoughts connected to any fear or anger we might be holding inside. We may not like thinking about that stuff, but that doesn’t keep it from being sticky, and that flywheel mind of ours can seem to take forever to wind down.

We can’t change the fact that our mind likes to spin. But when the mind is spinning about something that’s making bad weather inside of us there is something we can do about it. We can think about something else. Pretty simple, right? Don’t like what you’re thinking about, think of something else. You take the forward motion of your mind, its tendency to spin, and get it spinning about something you want to spin about, instead of whatever that crappy thing was you had going on before. It’s a little like mental judo, where you redirect your opponents energy to their disadvantage.

Think about something else. I realize that this seems like such an obvious and simple thing it’s almost ridiculous I’m even talking about it. If you wanted to think about something else, you’d just do that, right? Well, not necessarily. Remember, the thoughts we get stuck thinking about tend to be sticky. If you’re in a sticky thought loop, it’s hard to even realize you’re stuck, and then remember that you could be thinking about something else, and then start thinking about something else. And even if you do start thinking about something else, the sticky loop you were in often has a way of pulling you right back into it, if you don’t get far enough away. Sticky thought loops tend to have a certain addictive quality to them, that makes them… sticky. Ick.

The way to work around this problem is to plan ahead. Prepare a scene in your mind that has its own stickiness, but in a good way. Right now, while you’re hopefully listening to me, and not stuck in a bad weather pattern inside your head, cast your mind back to some particular scene in your life that you love, something that makes you feel great. For me, it’s standing in the middle of a trout stream in the mountains. Maybe yours is being at a bakery counter, or walking your dog, or buying clothes, or playing the clarinet. Think of something that you love, and work up a scene in your mind about that. Fill in as much detail as you can, and hold that scene in your mind for a moment or two. I’ll wait.

OK, I’m not going to wait. You can do this on your own time. The point is, you set up this scene in your mind and have it ready. Then, the next time you start spinning about something you don’t like, switch to that positive scene. If you’ve put some energy into thinking about it already, it will be magnetized enough to pull you off of the icky thought process you don’t like, and into the good one. Then stay in the good one long enough that the old crappy one fades off.

This may be a little tricky at first, but the more you practice, the more weight that positive scene will have, and the more effective it will be at helping you switch.

Now, most of my podcast listeners are already onboard with the notion that we’re responsible for our thoughts as well as our actions. But for some, this might seem like a bizarre idea from a crazy person. So maybe you’re thinking, I’m not going to go through all that silliness. What do I need it for?

I can see you’re going to take a little more convincing. But that’s OK. I don’t mind. I like a challenge.

Consider your mattress, the one you sleep on. At some point in the last 10 years there’s a good chance you took seriously the notion that you spend a third of your life in bed. And you decided to cheer up your crappy old mattress situation and spring for a new one.

And consider the place you work. Maybe you have an office job and work at a desk. At some point you figured, I’m going to be here all day, so I might as well bring in a picture of my wife, or my husband, or my dog or cat. And maybe put up a birthday card or something, to cheer the place up a bit.

Those are just two examples of making your environment suit your growth. I’m sure you can think of many others. Your mind is the inner environment you live with 24/7. Would you want to live with a mind full of crappy thoughts? Of course not. You’d want to cheer that place up, so you’d enjoy being there.

Make your inner environment suit your growth. Start to think about what you’re thinking about. Take note of when you’re off on some negative tangent you don’t like, and take an active part in changing your mind. Or in the immortal words of Elmer Fudd, “Lighten Up Buttercup”. Actually I don’t know if that was from Elmer Fudd, but it sounds about right. Spiritual masters come in all shapes and sizes.

If you’d like more help changing your mind, and getting out of negative thoughts, you might want to check out my guided imagery program, Positive Thinking.