I remember when I was in high school, I noticed that some days were good days, and some weren’t so good. I couldn’t figure out why. I just knew that some days I felt great and other days not so much. At that time in high school, I wasn’t very conscious of my mind – it was just an overall mood.
As I started to become interested in meditation, I started to notice more of my thought patterns. I realized why some days are really up days and some not so much, and it had a lot to do with the thoughts that were going on in my mind.
I’m sure you have had that experience of seeing the effect that your own thoughts have on your mood and state of awareness. When you start to observe your mind, one of the things you will observe is negative thinking patterns: self-doubt, jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.
It’s one thing to realize where the negative patterns came from –maybe it’s something your parents said, something that was drilled into you – “You’ll never be a success,” or “You’ll never be good at this,” or “There’s no value in doing that kind of thing. You should focus on this in life.”
We can pick it up from a lot of places including our culture and even from a close relationship that goes bad. When some of the things that someone says to you are really negative, but you care really deeply for that person, you absorb what they say.
Strategies For Dealing with Negative Thoughts
In the philosophy of meditation, there are two basic ways to deal with the negative thoughts.
The first is through the use of your intellect. Sometimes you think of intellect as, “Oh, this person’s very intellectual” as if they were just thinking of abstract things all the time. In meditation and yoga philosophy, we use the term intellect to signify your discriminating mind, your ability to discriminate between what’s true or what’s false. Say someone put it in your mind the thought that you’re no good. You would go through life with that thought in your head. Through the practice of meditation, developing your intellectual mind, your discriminative mind, you would come to the realization that that is incorrect – “I am a good person.” That clarity of thought would eliminate the negative thought through the use of the power of your mind, your ability to discriminate truth from falsehood.
The other way which is recommended in yoga is that when one thought wave comes – let’s say a negative thought – you counter it with an opposite thought-wave. We have one wave coming this way and another is going against it. When they meet, they cancel each other out, and you have evenness of mind!
So, for example, if the negative thought patterns that are going on involve how angry you are at somebody – how much you hate them or even hate yourself, etc. – then the way to counter that is with the opposite which would be love, unconditional love. If the thoughts or emotions are about anger towards someone, then the opposite wave would be forgiveness, and that would cancel out the anger. This involves identifying what’s going on in your mind, and then bringing in an emotion, usually, that would cancel it out. For anger or upset-ness, the opposite would be forgiveness. For doubting yourself, confidence.
You can also incorporate imagery. Let’s say you doubt yourself, so you visualize yourself as weak, and feeble, without capacity. The opposite, then, would be to use imagery and see yourself as a powerful tiger or a big, powerful bear, or an elephant that can get through anything. Using your ability to meditate, you free your mind from pre-conceptions and change how you see yourself as well as your emotions; in that process, you realize how good it feels to shift your old patterns.
Confidence in yourself feels so much better than doubting yourself. Forgiving people feels so much better than holding on to anger. It just takes one or two times of realizing that and then it’s so easy to push through those things or to cancel them out.
Again, when dealing with your thought patterns, there are two meditation techniques that will help you to overcome the negative thoughts and emotions. The first is to develop your discrimination, separating truth from falsehood; and the second is the idea of bringing in the opposite thought or emotion to balance out whatever you’re being challenged by.
Try these out and see if they make a difference in your life!
Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.