Nearly 2,000 years ago Epictetus, the Roman slave who became a Greek philosopher, wrote, “We are disturbed not by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens.”
Zen Buddhism declares, “We are each the source of our own suffering.” My mom used to say, “We are our own worst enemies.”
The wisdom is time-honoured from the Greeks, Buddha, and my 90-year-old mother our mind is the Grinch that steals happiness.
Our outer world (actions) reflects our inner world (mind and emotions). When our inner world is run by negative chatter such as fear of failure, conviction that we are unworthy, and constant struggle to do better, our outer world will reflect our fears and generate failure, unworthiness, and struggle. Everything we focus on expands. Therefore, when we focus on believing that someone does not love us, we end up finding behaviour to support our beliefs. On the other hand, when we believe that we are loving, generous, and worthy, the universe spawns love, generosity, and sweet acknowledgment.
There is more good news. “Suffering is optional,” according to Nick Kanieff, life coach, consultant, and co-creator of the website, Choose Love Not Fear. He recommends that as a first step, we should view the mind as being separate from the self. Once we acknowledge and understand the stressful thoughts that our minds create, we can choose to stop listening to them. All we need to do when the negative thoughts surface is to acknowledge their presence by saying, “Thanks for sharing,” and then immediately dismiss them with, “I’ve got better things to do than listen to you.” The mind-chatter may not go away completely, but its impact on you will.
Why listen to your mind when it tells you, “My partner should love me more?” asks Kanieff. In the first place, it is stressing you out to believe the thought. Secondly, you can never know if it’s true. Melissa Randall, Kanieff’s business partner, explains that when we love what is instead of arguing with reality, we become peaceful and no longer try to change what we cannot change. Meditation, exercise, and awareness also help us to escape the tyranny of our minds. When we dissociate ourselves from our negative inner voices, we are better able to appreciate the wonderful gifts surrounding us.
Byron Katie, the guru of loving what is, has developed a simple process to help us become aware of the reality of our life and thinking, to accept what is, and to see that the faults we find in others are the faults we find with ourselves. Katie offers free tools that teach us how to love what is, available at www.thework.org.
When we see clearly who we are and accept others for who they are, our stressful thoughts thaw and evaporate. If you want to free yourself from negative mind-chatter and move beyond worry, stress and fear simply stop listening to them. Say No to negative thoughts and Yes to positive ones.