Thought Awareness

Your thinking and how you analyze the world around you has evolved, mostly unconsciously, over your lifetime. Your training and experiences have shaped your worldview and because no two people experience the same life, how you think is distinct to you. This is a good reason not to be judgmental of others; you have not lived the same experiences as they have. Their belief system, and yours, will be unique to personal experience.

The average person has up to 60,000 thoughts per day and according to research conducted by the National Science Foundation, 80% of those thoughts could be negative and 95% repetitive. Most people don’t monitor their thoughts in an effort to improved them. If we are not diligent with our thinking, thoughts can easily run amuck, especially when they are habitual. It’s hard to stop a snowball rolling downhill and when you continue to think those habitually negative thoughts long enough, they become a belief.

In order to break the cycle of the negative monkey mind, you must be diligent with identifying those thoughts. You need to basically stalk yourself. Pay attention to the thoughts you think and begin to question the origin, i.e., “where did that thought come from?” Ask yourself if your beliefs are justified and valid. Keep a journal. I have a friend whose father has always been very consistent about telling her how stupid she is. As she began to accept it, the thought became part of her subconscious mind. It soon grew to become a belief, a very harmful belief that is absolutely not true. So every time she tells herself how stupid she is, she needs to correct herself saying something like, “that untrue thought came from my dad. I am smart about many things.” So keep in mind that the negative thoughts you think might not have originated from you but from someone else that has influenced you, and the sooner that you replace those thoughts with a positive thought, the better.

Although thoughts, as well as the stalking of thoughts, can be painful. The practice can teach you a great many things about yourself and those around you. Growth requires self-examination. “Even though you may not actually like the feelings of inner disturbance that may come from asking key questions, you must be able to sit quietly with yourself and face them if you want to see where they come from. Once you can face your disturbances, you will realize that there may be a layer of pain seated deep in the core of your heart. This pain is so uncomfortable, so challenging, and so destructive to the individual self, that your entire life has been spent trying to avoid it. Your entire personality is built upon ways of being, thinking, acting, and believing that were developed to avoid pain. Real growth takes place when you finally decide to deal with the pain.” From The Tethered Soul by Michael A. Singer.

Exercise: Bounce technique

When experiencing a negative thought, bounce it away with a positive thought instead. Simply replace the thought with a better feeling thought. Draw a line down the center of a tablet or piece of paper, creating two columns. When you catch yourself having a negative thought, write it in the left column. Then draw an arrow leading to the right column and re-write the statement in a positive version. This will assist you in shifting your thoughts. Whenever you catch yourself in the left column, replace the thought with the right column. For example:

Words are a byproduct of our thoughts, and words, in themselves, hold a great deal of power. Pay attention to the words you use and how you use them. Never allow yourself to speak unkindly to yourself or about yourself. You may think Self-deprecation to be funny, but is it really? In reality, it’s a way of reprimanding yourself by belittling, undervaluing, or disparaging your identity. Doing so does not honor you. As they say, to thine own self be true. There is nothing in this world that can trouble you as much as your own thoughts. To be in joy, you need to accept yourself in a loving manner. Choose your words carefully and not just when speaking about yourself, but also when speaking about others. It could be said that we receive in return that which we choose to put out into the world, so choose your words and thoughts wisely.

Even so, the seas of life will surely rock your boat at times, but you can choose your response to the storms. You are not the bad feelings nor thoughts that you get in your head. You are not the storms you walk through. You are the person experiencing the storm. The storm may knock you off your feet, but you are strong. You will rise again. Either the weather will change, you will find shelter, or you will look the storm in the eye with resilience and fortitude, because you know that storm cannot hold you back indefinitely. When you can keep a healthy perspective, your wrath exceeds that of any storm, so be mindful of your thoughts and choose wisely.

“No thought lives in your head rent-free. Each thought you have will either be an investment or a cost.” ~ T. Harv Eker

The makings of a Saint

Mother Teresa was born Agnesa Gonxha Bojaxhiu, 1910, as the youngest child of Nilola and Drana in the city of Skoje, present day Macedonia.  Influenced by the Jesuit parish of the Sacred Heart, she received her First Communion at age 5 and was confirmed at 6. Her father’s death at age 8 created financial challenges for the family. After a pilgrimage when she was 12, she made a decision to spread the word of Jesus’ teachings throughout the world. She left home at age 18 with a strong desire to become a missionary, traveling to Ireland to join the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Sisters of Loreto. After receiving the name Sister Mary Teresa after St. Therese of Lisieux, she learned to speak English, and departed for India to be a teacher.

Mother Teresa, whom she later became known as, completed nursing training at the Holy Family Hospital in Patna before moving to Calcutta in 1948. She had a deep yearning, from a young age, to provide service to the physical and spiritual needs of the poor. The purpose of her organization was to create a hope of survival to the needy, sick and destitute.

Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.” Mother Teresa

An encounter with Mother Teresa as told by Susan Conroy in Mother Teresa’s Lessons of Love and Secrets of Sanity.

“During my first encounters with Mother Teresa…I was struck by her profound humility. I knew that she was world famous and I had imagined that all famous people have a sense of their own greatness, a pride that shows through in their words and manners. There was none of that in Mother Teresa. There was an apparent selflessness in her, a quality that is not easy to find, even in non-famous people. It was as if she was totally unaware of herself, as if she was aware of only God and others. I had never met anyone in my life as humble as Mother Teresa. She was as humble as the poor whom we would lift up out of the gutters. Her humility was strikingly beautiful to me. Mother Teresa embodied so many other qualities as well, qualities that are all too rare in the world today. I wished that I could have brought her home with me, shown her to everyone, and said: “Just look at her!” Her appearance, her spirit, and her presence spoke a thousand words about integrity, about God, about true beauty, about inner strength, about love. Before meeting her, I had held incredibly high expectations and hopes concerning her, and I was not disappointed in the least. The reality was even better than what I had imagined. All that I learned about her and from her had been true-to-life.”

Mother Teresa was tough yet practical, plain yet prayerful, small yet mighty. She felt that God had given, not just her, but each of us the capacity to achieve deeds in the service of others. In her words, “when a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her.   It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.” 

She received many awards including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She founded new healing communities in South Africa, Albania, Cuba, and war torn Iraq. By 1997, her Sisters numbered nearly 4,000 members, and were established in almost 600 foundations in 123 countries of the world. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003 with her canonization approved by Pope Francis, September 2016.

The story of Mother Teresa exemplifies love in action. In her quiet way, she sparked a movement, an example of the difference that can be made by the yearning of one simple soul. She truly became the change she wished to see in the world, and in her sainthood, continues to urge each of us to make a difference in the world. What about you? Are you willing to be a spark to something big?

Through the Eyes of Love

There is a saying, “Never look down on someone unless you’re helping them up!” When I first heard this, it struck me very deeply. It was a reminder that no matter where you find someone, they are never beneath you. They are your fellow man and should be treated as such. No one was born any differently than any other person on this planet. The only difference between you and them is the circumstance. I bet if you asked any child what they want to be when they grow up, they probably didn’t answer, “I want to be homeless” or “I want to be addicted to drugs” Experiences and wounds have led people to where they are. When we think about our fellow human beings in this frame of mind, it’s easy to reach out and help them up. So do not look past an opportunity to help someone in need, because you never know when you might need help yourself. You’ll be glad you did it to the least of these.