I used to believe that if I noticed a negative thought pattern in my mind, I had to change it. I thought I had to do something so it wouldn't show up again and impact my life. If you've been around personal growth and self-help teachings
for any bit of time, you know there are a plethora of techniques for changing your thoughts. While many of these can be useful, we don’t want to get into a trap of thinking we have to constantly monitor and work on every negative thought we discover in our mind. If we take it too seriously, it soon becomes a full-time job.
Today I want to offer another perspective for how to release yourself from the influence of negative thoughts
. I'm going to share a metaphor with you that has helped me tremendously and led me to a lighter, brighter experience of my own mind. If you really grasp the meaning of this metaphor and make it your own, you can have your own powerful insight into what thoughts really are and where they come from. Negative thought patterns will naturally cease to have a hold over you, and they’ll shift on their own without your having to do anything about them.
Imagine you're taking a walk in nature. The birds are singing, the sun is shining, and the air is clear; it's a perfect day. You come upon a gentle stream and decide to sit down by its edge.
You notice that there are many things floating by you in the water. There are twigs, flowers, photographs, dirt, pieces of paper, mementos of life, decayed matter and all kinds of other things. As the variety of things pass by—some pleasant, some unpleasant—you realize that this stream is like the nature of your mind. From the time you're born, there is a stream of thoughts moving through your mind.
A rose passes by in the water. You pick it up and take in its fragrance. You are thinking about someone you love. It makes you feel good.
Then, you notice a smelly lump of decayed matter floating by. You don't like this remnant of the past being in your stream and ruining the perfect scene, so you reach in, pick it up and bring it to your nose to investigate it. You turn it over in your hands and examine it from all angles to figure out how to change it into something better. Now your hands are covered in sludge, you have an awful smell in your nose, and you are turning grumpy.
This is an energy principle in action—that what we focus on grows
. Believing our negative thoughts are so powerful that we must do battle with them is the very thing that gives them power. Realizing this, you put that stuff back in the water and let it float away. You rinse your hands in the stream and take a deep breath of clean air.
You feel better. You realize there’s no need to worry when something negative shows up in your stream. Watching the water carry the sludge away, you see that all thoughts, if left alone, will pass on their own. You can't control what thoughts pass through your mind—there are 60,000 to 90,000 of them a day! You can only control whether you focus on them or not.
Now you notice another unpleasant thing passing by in the stream. It looks like a piece of paper with some nasty self-talk written on it. Will you pick it up this time? Examine and analyze it . . . try to figure out what happened in your childhood that led it to show up in your life . . . and beat yourself up for it being there? No, this time you just let it pass. It has no power over you.
More important than the thoughts passing through, is the stream of water itself. This is your consciousness. It’s that pure living awareness that flows through you in every moment, allowing you to have the variety of experiences that make up your life. With this new insight, you turn your attention to the clear, crystal water in front of you. You close your eyes and dip your hands in. This time, it seems as if your hands have the power to momentarily clear away all the thoughts, all the debris in the stream, and none are touching you. You're just experiencing your pure life essence through your fingertips.
and other spiritual practices
are like this. The more you focus only on the water, the more it seems to wash away anything impure. But you don't do it by effort. When you come to your practice, you sit by the stream in reverence and you expand your capacity to feel this essence itself, and it purifies all on its own.
Now you wonder, where did this stream come from? You open your eyes and look upstream. You see that the water is emerging from a cave. You can't go inside the cave, and you can’t see into it with your human eyes. But you recognize that it holds the Source of Life. Your personal stream of consciousness is evidence that this Source exists, and that you are connected to it.
From this awareness, you can even begin to see the debris in the water as sacred. Even the so-called negative thoughts that pass through your mind, in a way, are sacred, because they too are expressions of your aliveness. They only happen because you're plugged into something greater that moves through you. Your thoughts—all of them—are manifestations of Life expressing itself through you.
And then as beautiful as this scene is, you stand up from the stream and go back to the activities of your day. The thoughts resume, and some of them are even still negative. But now you remember that they are just passing forms in the stream of your consciousness, and you pay them no attention unless you truly want to. You remember that although the stream is yours, it is not you. So there's nothing to resist and nothing you need to hold on to.
My hope is that this metaphor gives you a way of understanding the human experience, and how you can engage your thoughts with more ease and peace. Change it, add to it, expand on it and make it your own. Sit by the water’s edge frequently and see what it has to offer you.
If you'd like to go deeper into your own consciousness and heighten your capacity for clarity, wisdom and insight, check out our Third Eye Awakening Course, or the book CONNECT: How to Find Clarity and Expand Your Consciousness with Pineal Gland Meditation.