Want to live life with fewer problems? Here's how.
Let’s get really real - we all have problems. We all deal with challenges every day. Sometimes we struggle with the thoughts that ping pong around in our mind or get sucked into a loop of negative thinking. Sometimes we lose our patience at work or at home. And sometimes we just feel a little overwhelmed by it all. We’re juggling our jobs, our family’s, our list of errands, trying to put dinner on the table, squeezing in that 30 minute workout, paying the bills... all amidst a 24-hour stream of news that contains more bad than good.
To put it simply, your mind takes a beating.
I have good news and bad news. I’ll start with the bad so we can end on a high note…
The bad news is, there’s no quick and easy solution to all of these problems. The good news is, the answer to your problems is more simple than you think. (Just note that simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy).
Let me explain. Right here, right now is all there ever was, is, and will be. Right now is the place where we physically are, but how often is it where we mentally are?
The secret is that most of your problems don’t actually exist right now.
They exist in the past and the future (maybe), but not right now. The simple solution to these challenges we face is to 1. become present and 2. establish the witness
You might be asking yourself “what’s that?” Well, the witness is who we truly are.
Lots of times, we get tricked into thinking that who we are is the voice inside our minds – the voice that’s constantly commentating about what’s happening in each moment. The beauty in all of this is that you are not your thoughts.
Who we truly are is the silent witness observing all of the activity in our minds and in the world around us as it comes and goes, just like the weather.
To recognize the witnessing function of your mind, simply listen to your own voice as you read these words. There is an awareness that is listening to you internally verbalize these words as you read them. The awareness that is doing the listening is the witness. The voice that we hear is just thinking, structured in a language that sounds like the voice we speak in. This isn’t who we are; who we are is the awareness that is doing the witnessing.
Let’s use a real-life example. Imagine yourself dating someone new after ending a particularly painful relationship. While spending time together, your new partner does something that reminds you of your ex. In the moment, you become flooded with old memories and begin to tense up, thinking the past is doomed to repeat itself. This causes you to make snap judgments about your partner and start forming defensive thoughts.
Because you’ve learned to 1. Be present and 2. Witness your thoughts, you’re able to pause in the moment and identify the feelings you’re having as nothing more than a reaction from the past. You then remind yourself that there is no real danger or threat in the present. Perhaps you decide to have an open and honest conversation with your partner about their behavior and how it brought up some memories from your past. They acknowledge your feelings and you both grow closer in your relationship by discussing the situation openly.
The witness enables us to discern the difference between our natural intelligence and our fear-based reactive thinking.
The easiest way to become present and establish the witness is to meditate. When we establish a daily practice of sitting and observing our thoughts in the moment, our self awareness grows and we’re able to neutrally observe this experience as nothing more than events that are coming and going in our awareness. When we can witness all thoughts and feelings in our awareness as activity that is coming and going, we don’t get caught up in them.
If we don’t practice this skill, the natural tendency is to get caught up in our thoughts and emotions and allow them to dominate our mood, behavior, and relationships. We become identified with the process of thinking and lose awareness of who is having the thought.
What a relief it is to be liberated from the feeling of being trapped or suffocated by our thoughts and feelings!
Despite what’s coming up, we are able to connect with our self from a deeper place and be accepting of our experience.This allows us to be more capable of remaining kind, compassionate and engaged with ourselves and others as we process the experience.
Next time you get caught up in the moment, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and remind yourself of who you are. Feel the emotions you’re experiencing and allow them to move through you. Have compassion for yourself as you process them. When you’re ready, open your eyes and allow this awareness to guide you.