Being mindful of your thoughts is one of the key aspects of many talking therapies. The idea behind it is if you can control your thoughts you can control the impact they have on you. To do that you have to notice your triggers and be aware of how your thoughts can influence your behaviour.
Connecting to the world around you
Being mindful of your thoughts allows you to achieve a certain balance and harmony within your lifestyle. In my journey to learn about holistic practices that can help improve mental health and reconnecting with oneself, I’ve stumbled upon wu wei. Wu wei (pronounced ‘woo-way’) is an ancient Taoist principle. It teaches you how to connect with the world around you, so you work with it and not against it. You focus inwards towards your ‘truth’ and then outwards hooking on to something that is bigger than ourselves. When you find the right mix, hey presto you have achieved an optimum balance. Sounds easy right?
Wu Wei Wisdom offer a mixture of life coaching and spiritual development. I caught up with husband and wife co- founders David James Lees and Alexandra Lees to find out what they could teach me about using wu wei to be more mindful and lead a happier, more positive life.
How does being mindful of your thoughts link to positivity and gratitude?
Mindfulness is the practice of managing the busyness of your mind, becoming acutely aware of your inner dialogue or self-talk, and becoming healthy and authentic in your beliefs, thoughts, words and actions.
For me, mindfulness is an ongoing, simple yet essential act of self-nurturing – it is not something to be practiced only in a weekly meditation class!
I believe that positivity and gratitude are natural states of being that you are born with and it is only your Human-Centred Mind (or the Ego) that draws you away from this state of awareness. This is where mindfulness can help.
In ancient China, the constant chattering and background noise of the mind was described as the ‘Monkey Mind’ because of its mischievous nature. The untamed Monkey Mind loves to swing into the future, creating expectations, desires and anticipated scenarios and outcomes. It also likes to draw your attention to the past, by obsessively ruminating on old perceived unfairness and injustice around what ‘should have been’ or’ might have been’.
This constant, shifting gaze between your future and past, coupled with all the negative judgements, criticism and comparing of yourself and others that go hand in hand with it, creates what the Taoists refer to as a ‘Carousel of Despair’.
This is not a positive place to be. The inevitable outcome of all these unmanaged and undisciplined thoughts is the creation of lots of negative feelings and emotions. These are commonly labelled in the West as: anxiety, stress, depression, anger, sadness etc.
I prefer to use the term ‘red-lights’ for these negative states because, when you learn to become MINDFUL and notice when these emotions arise within you, you then can use them as helpful indicators. Essentially, they are warning you that your thoughts, and ultimately your core beliefs, are misaligned with your truth and your authentic state of positivity and gratitude.
A mantra that I teach all my clients and students is:
you are the creator of your emotions, NOT the victim of them!
Through the practice of mindfulness, you can begin to identify, examine and question any thoughts and beliefs that are creating your red-light feelings, and in doing so, learn how to control and reduce these unwanted emotions.
I call this mindful practice ‘compassionate self-discipline’. By replacing unhelpful and harmful thoughts and beliefs with more healthy and authentic ones, this process allows you to create a different set of feelings and emotions, what I call ‘green-lights’, such as love, peace, contentment, bliss and gratitude.
Can mindfulness make us happier, better people?
As I have explained above, being mindful of your thoughts and beliefs enables you to both manage and create your emotions, so it would follow that you can mindfully create your own happiness.
By taking self-responsibility for your thinking you can manifest a life full of green-light feelings, of love, peace, wellbeing etc., simply by rejecting any misunderstandings, or what I call ‘lies’, that your Human-Centred Mind offers you.
Ultimately, happiness comes from being mindful to always live with truth, honesty and integrity.
The question as to whether mindfulness can make you a ‘better person’ is a based on a judgemental statement what you are somehow ‘not good enough’, which will lead you onto the Carousel of Despair!
Instead, why not consider simply being the best that you can be, NOT the best in the world?
This mindful reframing of your intention, allows you focus on your personal and spiritual development and flourishing, without the need to be judgemental, self-critical or comparing yourself or anyone else.
Imagine your life free from being concerned about reaching or beating limits that you or others have set for you… not striving to be ‘perfect’… or when the concept of being ‘a failure’ becomes meaningless.
What would our life be like if you truly believed ‘what other people think of me is none of my business’?
Mindfulness can allow you to connect to this truth.
Can forgiveness be accomplished with mindfulness?
I would like you to mindfully consider that striving for ‘forgiveness’ (of yourself or others) is a both hierarchical and inauthentic pursuit that ignites the Monkey Mind and will put you on the Carousel of Despair.
Buying into the concept of forgiveness encourages you to constantly re-examine historic perceived unfairness and injustice, that may or may not have happened to you, artificially holding your energy in the past. It also places you in a higher position as the ‘forgiver’, when in fact we are all equal and there cannot be any separation between you and another.
Instead, why not mindfully consider the idea of ‘acceptance’?
Acknowledge that, regardless of whatever happened to you in the past, you survived, you have learnt from the experience, and can now prosper and flourish in the knowledge and truth that nothing or no one can stop your expansive, authentic journey.
Acceptance does not feed the Monkey Mind. It allows you to take full personal self-responsibility for your life and future journey, free from the shackles of hierarchical and judgemental values of unfairness and injustice.
How can mindfulness aid relaxation?
Mindfulness helps by managing and stopping the Monkey Mind from its constant busyness and by quietening the judgemental, critical, comparing nature of its negative self-talk.
This mental quietness allows you to reconnect to your authentic-self and will result in green-light feelings of peace, calm and relaxation. When you reach this state of relaxation you will find a balance between your mind, body and spirit.
Does mindfulness lead to greater confidence?
Yes! Confidence is a green-light feeling that tells you that you are strongly connected and aligned to your true self and authentic thoughts and core beliefs.
Through mindfulness you can manage your wonderfully powerful Human Centred Mind’s relentless quest to keep you away from emotional harm and on the familiar path of safety.
When you can mindfully take authentic control of your life, move out of your comfort zone and face the unknown path of expansion with firmness, willpower, grit, self-discipline, or what we call ‘confidence’, you’ll experience an abundance of green-light feelings!
David has certainly provided me with some food for thought. I love the similarities that I can see between wu wei and Islam such as taking personal responsibility for our thoughts and how dwelling on the past only leads to misery. I also like how there are many paths to learn how to become happier, grateful people.
What are your thoughts about wu wei? Drop me a comment below!
DAVID JAMES LEES – BIOGRAPHY
David James Lees is an ordained Taoist Master and integrative health expert specialising in emotional wellbeing.
With over 40 years’ international practice experience, David’s work combines his unique Taoist ‘Wu Wei Wisdom’ approach to wellbeing and practical spirituality, with his extensive training in traditional Chinese medicine, counselling, hypnotherapy, NLP, mindfulness and qigong meditation.
He is a popular author, broadcaster and speaker, and is a regular guest on BBC Radio.Website: http://www.wuweiwisdom.com/