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THOUGHTS AS MENTAL EVENTS

Thoughts are not facts, and thoughts are not us. One of the main teachings of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy is Decentring. Decentring from thoughts is to view them as they arise, hang around in the space of the mind and then dissolve like other passing sensations. To see thoughts as clouds in the sky, like a natural phenomenon. The mind as the clear blue sky, which remains in the background, and thoughts come and go like clouds. Or thoughts as floating leaves on a stream that is the mind. Some teachers describe thoughts as actors on a stage play, while we are the curious audience watching on, not getting up on stage and getting involved with them. To be able to create the observer in us who can make more sense of what is going on by having a wider perspective.

 

Another useful analogy in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy is to see our repetitive thought patterns as a regular bus service. The thought bus always comes around on cue, but we have a choice whether to get on or not. We have ridden this bus many times, know the route it takes and in the end it leaves us exactly where we started, only having depleted our energy going down a repetitive story loop. Learning to recognise the thought bus, instead of mindlessly getting onboard out of habit, is a skill developed in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. Recognition of unhelpful patterns in the first step towards freedom from them.

 

Awareness of thoughts as mental events give us the space and freedom to choose our reaction and our relationship with them. In mediation we start to notice our repeating thought patterns, as well as our immediate and well-rehearsed reactions to them. What they trigger in us and how they influence our following thoughts and actions. What stories do we get caught up in and how it makes us think and behave. It is a very liberating mindfulness practice to realise that thoughts are powerful mental phenomenon, but they are not fact or self.

“You are not your mind.” – Eckhart Tolle

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