The Lunatic Behaviour We Are All Guilty Of

amyteesdaleblogContributed by Guest Author Aimee Teesdale

Picture this. You’re on a bus on a cold and rainy day. The flow of traffic is barely moving. Everyone is wrapped in their own thoughts, except for an elderly lady at the back. She has giant earrings and frizzy hair that flaps around as she gestures and talks to herself:

“What did she say to me? Oh that’s rich. Honestly I can barely believe it. You know one of these days I’m going to… well will you just look at where we are! This bus is so slow I feel like I could scream. It’s poor city planning that’s to blame… If I have to take a bus one more time I think I’ll lose my mind. And who does she think she is anyway, talking to me like that…?

And on and on and on. For 20 minutes she sat there, ranting and raving, her fellow passengers doing their best to pretend they didn’t notice. It was clear to everyone on board that she was completely and utterly mad.

I felt bad for the woman. She seemed to have no control over her own thoughts, jumping from one to the other and back again, without even a moment’s rest. What a tormented life, right?

But then it occurred to me: weren’t we all doing exactly the same thing?

I looked at my fellow travelers and realized that the only difference with us was that we kept our crazy inner dialogue quiet! When I stopped to look at myself, my inner chattering wasn’t so very different from the “crazy” lady’s at the back of the bus.

While she seemed unaware and out of control with what was coming out of her mouth, I wondered how many of us on that bus could say the same of our thoughts.

Didn’t I sometimes get carried away with my own thoughts? Didn’t I also sit and stew over what someone had said to me or stress and worry over something that had already happened or might happen in the future?

And if it seems crazy when said out loud, why not also when it’s just an invisible thought?

At the heart of all personal development is the ability to be aware. Taking ownership of our thoughts and taking control of what we want them to be can only happen when we are aware of them in the first place.

Do you have any “thought traffic”? When was the last time you looked at the never-ending flow of thoughts and said to yourself, “hang on a minute, let me see what’s actually happening here”? Thoughts are light. Impermanent. Changeable. But they can only be changed when you’re aware that they’re there.

So, what would strangers on a bus think of your thoughts if they were said out loud?

If you struggle to snap out of thought traffic at times, here are some quick ways to train yourself to halt the flow:

  • Do an easy breathing meditation. No need for incense and cushions, just remind yourself as often as you can throughout the day to stop and take two or three deep, cleansing breaths. Don’t force yourself to “think of nothing” either – just calmly notice the contents of your mind
  • Use props – a good trick is to wear an elastic band round your wrist. Every time you glance at it, take a few moments to do a thought check. Are you stressed? Engaging in negative self talk? Worrying needlessly about things?
  • Have a ritual. Start the day with a deliberate intention to be mindful and aware. This could be a little prayer, a morning walk, journaling or having a quiet cup of tea as you gather your thoughts. Gradually, it’ll be easier to get into that headspace at will.
  • Lastly, pay attention to any clues your body may be sending you. If you notice tense shoulders, ask if you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Pay attention to aches, pain, fatigue or headaches. That weird feeling in your gut could be a powerful message, literally and figuratively!

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