“Develop the ability to stand back and be a witness to your thoughts. This will make your mind strong.” – Amma
If you’ve ever suffered from a jumble of thoughts and struggled to make sense of them all, be comforted that you’re not alone. Each of us has this unsettling experience, and some of us on more occasions than others. At times like this, it’s difficult to make any decision, since there’s often doubt and confusion clouding sound judgment. What’s a person to do? How can you quiet the discordant thoughts and arrive at some sort of clear thinking?
Meditation experts praise the practice’s ability to allow the practitioner to do just that. Not only does meditation acknowledge that such thoughts are clamoring for attention and seeking to disrupt life, it also permits the practitioner to distance himself or herself from the chaos and confusion by developing the ability to detach and watch what’s going on.
It’s this detachment and witnessing that produces a sense of calm – even amid the noise and discord. Simply put, you become able to stand back and watch, to witness your thoughts without being ruled or controlled by them.
Such an ability to remain apart, yet witnessing it all, is the foundation for development of a strong, clear mind. It isn’t that problems, issues or conflicting and competing demands will suddenly disappear. They won’t. But you’ll be better able to determine a course of action once you’re removed from the power such distractions seek to claim over you.
WITNESS YOUR THOUGHTS — WITHOUT MEDITATING
But what if you don’t practice meditation? Is it still possible to stand back and be a witness to your thoughts? If so, how? Here are some suggestions:
1. Acknowledge the thought’s presence.
When a thought that’s distressing or highly charged enters your mind, acknowledge its presence. Don’t fight to quash it, because that won’t work. By acknowledging the thought, you address its presence. You are not giving it power, just witnessing it. Then, allow your mind to drift to the next thought and do the same.
Tip: This may seem trivial or unimportant, especially if you’ve got many items on your to-do list. Yet, you must be willing to acknowledge the thought’s presence to dissipate its power. Go with the process. You’ll find that it’s easier than you think.
2. Stay still, taking no immediate action.
Remain still and exert no action that is propelled by the thought, not now. There will be adequate time to deal with what needs to be done once your mind is clear and free of distractions — after you’ve acknowledged all the distressing, distracting, competing and conflicting thoughts and moved on.
Tip: It’s tough for action-oriented individuals to sit still and do nothing. Quiet the promptings of your mind that tell you you’re wasting time. You’re not. Remain still even if it feels uncomfortable. This is part of the process of learning how to be a witness to your thoughts.
3. Let your silence envelope you.
Tip: If you’re struggling with letting silence envelope you, don’t feel like you’ve failed or can’t possibly achieve calm and peace. Take a few deep breaths and picture a serene and peaceful place. Imagine yourself there, fully immersed in the experience. All external noise and stimuli should gradually disperse, leaving only silence. Sit with this silence and embrace it.
4. Slowly return to the present.
After allowing time for witnessing your thoughts, gradually return to the present. You should have some resolution to your quest and be able to create workable solutions. That’s because your mind is clear and free of clouded and conflicting thoughts. You have helped to strengthen your mind.
Tip: Be willing to make use of this process whenever you want to return to your center, to find an oasis amid the jumble of everyday life. Practice these steps and you’ll find that you’re better able to find clear solutions to your problems.