The Thought That Just Won't Go Away
I know you have at least one.
One of those thoughts that just won't go away. One of those thoughts that come back to you day after day, year after year.
Maybe it is that thought that you want to lose weight, or that you want to work in an environment that doesn't drain you each day, or that you want to pursue more creative projects - like the ones you've pinned on Pinterest but have never gotten around to actually doing. These are what I call boomerang thoughts.
Each time a boomerang thought comes around again, you might take a little action to address it. But then life gets in the way, you find excuses and reasons, and any actions that are taken on the path of those thoughts just slip away.
"What we resist, persists"
These boomerang thoughts tell you something about yourself. That's the good news. A bit of self awareness that - almost literally - keeps hitting you in the head.
The bad news is that these boomerang thoughts aren't going to magically fly away after a tiny bit of action. They will come back, month after month, year after year. Each time that you find reasons and excuses that shoo the thoughts away, you provide a temporary respite.
But what we resist, persists. This means that things that you push away or ignore inside of you don't stay away until they feel resolved. These boomerang thoughts are attached to something deep within you, some conscious or unconscious desire that insists on being given proper attention.
So how to find resolution?
It begins with awareness. (The INHALE of the BeingBreath practice cycle.) You first have to recognize that a thought IS a boomerang thought. Sometimes they are obvious. (That same new year's resolution that you have every year is probably one of them.) You hear the thought coming up again and groan. Been there, thought that.
But sometimes they are more subtle and sneaky. You might not recall having tried to address that particular thought before. In these cases, practices such as journaling can be quite helpful.
We'll look at this practice in more depth as we journey around BeingBreath, but for now: A journal - in whatever format you want to keep it - is simply a outward recording of your inner thoughts. It can be written in a fancy book or stapled papers, typed in an ever-growing digital document, or even audio recorded into an app on your phone.
The journal gives you an objective look back at yourself. It reminds you what you were thinking on this day a month ago, a year ago, 5 years ago. It is an effective way to recognize those boomerang thoughts.
I recall looking back at one of my journals recently and feeling totally amused when I saw an idea - one that I thought had emerged within the past few days - staring back at me from when I'd written it 4 years ago. Apparently, this idea was a boomerang thought that, as I flipped through page after page, had been reappearing in my life in one way or another for years.
It was obvious that it was time to do something about it.
Once you are aware, then what?
1 :: Change your thinking.
Changing your thinking does not mean trying to change the boomerang thought. It is there for a reason and, remember, will keep coming back until it feels resolved.
Instead, changing you thinking is an attempt to discover what that boomerang thought is tethered to, deep within you, and to release that boomerang thought by addressing that deeper desire. It's like trying to deal with a knot. You can keep pulling on the end of the string to move it this way and that, but that string is going to stay right there until you work on the knot itself.
Here's one example.
Your boomerang thought is, "I want to lose 5 pounds". Every month, the scale creeps back up, and you cringe as your goal weight slips back away.
You can change your thinking by looking at those 5 pounds from different perspectives. Brainstorm (jotting down ideas or letting your mind free-flow as you go for a walk) on these questions: WHY do I want to lose 5 pounds? How will I feel differently when I do? Why have I been unable or unwilling to do so in the past?
As answers arrive, don't judge them. Remember, this practice of SELF AWARENESS exists, always, within the SPACE of mindful non-judgment.
In my own life, I've struggled with the weight issue. When I tried this practice, I discovered that one of my answers was that I wanted to feel sexy. The boomerang thought around that 5 pounds? It was tethered to that desire to feel sexy. I kept thinking that it was those 5 pounds that were keeping me from feeling the way I wanted to feel.
Over months of practice, I was able to release that goal of weight loss and discover other thoughts and actions that addressed that core desire. Over time, no matter what the scale read, I felt better and sexier when I was moving daily (exercise), eating healthier (skipping the constant chip-munching), and adorning myself with clothes and accessories that mirrored a style I wanted to exude that day. Boomerang thought - bye bye.
Your boomerang thoughts and the perspectives you have on them will vary wildly. But this is part of your practice: To see how you can change your thinking around that boomerang thought in order to release it from returning to you.
2 :: Change your actions.
This might seem obvious. When you've had that boomerang thought in the past, that's exactly what you've done: Changed your actions. But it's never been enough. So what's different this time?
This time, you aren't going to attempt to fix the problem in the same way, to jump on the same treadmill (literal or figurative). Your actions are going to reflect the BeingBreath practice cycle.
You will start with SELF-AWARENESS, being completely honest with yourself why this thought keeps coming back to you. Why have your efforts to address it in the past not led you to where you wanted to be? (Remember the SPACE in which this all exists...absolutely no judgment allowed.)
You'll take tiny actions towards where you want to be with full CREATIVE EXPRESSION. Each action needs to reflect what you truly desire, not what you think you should be doing.
And you'll do all of this - the thought examinations and tiny actions - with full MINDFULNESS and NON-JUDGMENT. Telling yourself that you are doing something wrong is a sure-fire way of prohibiting growth. Telling yourself that you've failed after missing two days at the gym or after not finishing a craft project is a definite way to invite that boomerang thought back. Being gentle with yourself and simply noticing the consequences of each action will cause you to feel better about the small steps you are taking, and more able to take the next one towards where you want to be.
And of course, you'll keep practicing the cycle with each and every breath, in the midst of each and every day.
Next week during EXHALE week, we'll look at a specific example of this that you might have faced....a boomerang thought that's common to many who long for a more fulfilling life.
Remember, thoughts have weight. Those boomerang thoughts are baggage that you don't need to be keeping with you...baggage that keeps you from feeling free day after day.
You begin with awareness by discovering what your boomerang thoughts are and being honest about why they keep returning. (INHALE)
You then practice releasing them by changing your thinking and/or changing your actions. (EXHALE)
And always, always - do not judge where you are or the steps you are taking. Take note of your actions and their consequences, but do not add the burden of judgment. (Allow for SPACE)
I'm curious...what are some of your boomerang thoughts? Take 30 seconds and let me know through a comment or email. We find strength in community, and part of building that is sharing with one another who we are. Who knows, maybe someone else is struggling with exactly the same thoughts, and we can help get rid of those boomerangs for you both!
Here's to our practice, and to the next breath....