This morning I woke up from a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad dream. I won’t get into the details because it’s way too long and complicated, and the details are becoming more fuzzy as the day goes on, as often happens with dreams. But it was rough. And I dream deeply. There’s nothing lucid for me. I’m wholly in another reality, another dimension, entirely believing it to be the truth, no matter how strange it is. I often wake from these dreams incredibly relieved that it’s only a dream. Although, sometimes it takes me hours to connect back to waking reality and regroup from the emotions I experienced during it.
Since it as one of those mornings, I got to thinking about mindfulness and how it’s essentially about being present in reality. Yet, everyone has their own version of what reality is, based on their thoughts about everything we’ve experienced in the past (sleep or awake).
When our reality is too far fetched for the average person in society and we can’t function within the normal parameters, we’re diagnosed with psychotic disorders like Schizophrenia or simply “weirdo.” When our reality is too far fetched, but it helps us create movies, television shows, music, books, or other works of art the general public enjoys, we’re lauded as genuises and paid a lot of money.
It’s all very confusing and the truth is we’re all delusional to some extent because we all make sense of reality through our own unique experiences and thoughts about those experiences. All of these distorted views of reality can make life difficult. It makes communication and decision making challenging amongst other things. I’m sure everyone can relate to having had a long conversation with someone only to figure out at the end that you were talking about two entirely different things. Very frustrating.
It’s not possible to remove the past or the thoughts from running through our minds, but we wouldn’t want to do that anyway. That’d create a whole host of other issues.
Still, we do want to be mindful of our thoughts so we can better assess whether we’re in the present moment or viewing it from the lens of past experiences. Either are fine. Both can be helpful at times and harmful at times. It’s this mindfulness of our thoughts, noticing them and not trying to hold onto them or push them away, that helps us best determine how much we’re living in reality.
You might think you’re always being mindful of your thoughts because you know that you’re thinking. But if your thoughts are causing you any problems you aren’t being mindful. If you’re feeling anxious because you have too many thoughts or worries about the future, or you’re feeling depressed because you can’t stop remembering sad experiences, you aren’t being mindful of your thoughts.
You’re letting them take over your life and your thoughts are your reality as opposed to the life that’s actually happening right now.
Human beings have a tendency to believe our thoughts so completely. All you have to do is look at how many people confuse opinions with facts these days. “Well, I think that’s true so it must be.” Hmmm.... okay, but if we all think this way and have different thoughts, then how do we ever reach any truth? Is there any truth?
Deep thoughts by Amanda Stemen.
I could go on and on philosophizing on that, but that wouldn’t be mindful of my intention here, which is to share how to be more mindful of our thoughts so we can more effectively distinguish between delusion and reality.
Thoughts are Not Facts
The very first thing we have to do is recognize and accept that thoughts are not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Thoughts are simply not facts. We might have thoughts about facts, such as labeling a brown hairy creature with four legs and a wagging tail a dog, which is what we as humans have agreed to call such a thing. But the thought in and of itself is not a fact. It’s simply a thought labeling something.
A fact is something we can observe through our senses or something someone tells us. So things that we can see, taste, touch, smell, or hear or when someone tells us what they’re thinking. If we a box of apples fall off a truck on the freeway and we see it, that’s a fact because we saw a box of apples fall off a truck on the freeway. Or if we read a newspaper story about it filled with eye witness observations or our friend saw it and tells us about it, that’s a fact as well because someone observed it. Thinking, “I hate apples” or “That person is such an idiot to let their apples fall of their truck” are not facts. Those are simply thoughts (Judgments to be specific about the type of thought.). However, it is a fact that you had those thoughts because you had those thought. Oh, it gets so complicated.
Label Our Thoughts
One of the easiest ways to recognize that thoughts are simply thoughts is to label a thought a thought when you have it. That brings you right back into the present in noticing that you had a thought. You can take it a step further and label the type of thought you’re having, a memory, prediction, worry, judgment, guess, etc.
Keep Your Head in the Clouds
It’s also helpful to look at thoughts as you would waves or clouds, things that come and go. You watch them ebb and flow, noticing that none stay for very long, unless we choose to hold onto them.
You can also do some fact checking. Is this thought true? How do I know that it’s true? What concrete evidence do I have that supports this thought? What concrete evidence do I have that doesn’t support this thought? Curiously assessing our thoughts is a good way to determine if we’re living in reality or our own created universe.
We don’t judge our thoughts as good or bad or we should be having them or shouldn’t be having them. That isn’t helpful. We simply observe them, notice if they’re helpful or harmful, and move on with our lives, making mindful choices that align with our morals and values, feel good and right to us, and move us forward in the direction we’d like to go.
That is it. Happy thinking everyone!
This post is for informational purposes and not meant to be a replacement for professional mental health treatment.