Now start your stopwatch and scribble down every separate thought – however fleeting or insignificant – that occurs to you during the next 180 seconds. Then stop and cast your eye over ‘Exhibit A’. You may or may not be surprised by the volume of thoughts that have just streamed through your mind. And by the instances of repetition.
You now have practical evidence that a ‘thought tap’ is permanently open in your mind, producing a constant dribble of material. A lot of it is trivia. A lot of it is nonsensical. A lot of it is negative. Some if it is loving. Some of it makes you feel happy. Some of it is harmless. Some of it makes you bristle with anger, jealousy or insecurity.
I don’t know where these thoughts come from and that doesn’t really bother me. What’s more important is to see that attempting to attend to every one of these thoughts is madness. Because to do so would be to commit myself to a life of virtual slavery. It would be rather like spending the rest of my life trying to tidy up the floor of the Amazonian rainforest by picking up every twig, leaf, seed pod or vine that fell to earth.
I prefer instead to think of my mind as resembling a weather system. I know that I don’t choose the weather. And I know it doesn’t give a hoot about my preferences. Sometimes it’s sunny, sometimes it’s raining. Sometimes there’s a thunderstorm. And I can rage against the rainclouds as much as I like, but I can never ‘fix’ them.
Even if I get onto Twitter and express my dislike for the particularly menacing raincloud that has parked itself above my home I will not alter the outcome. The raincloud will pass in its own good time. So I prefer to ignore the rainclouds (as far as I can) and get on with what needs to be done. More weather will be on the way, because we are never ‘weather free’.
You don’t choose your thoughts either. If you wish you can rage against your thoughts all day long, but you can never ‘fix’ them. So why not leave them to their own devices and get on with what needs to be done (your cat, dog, child, friend, mother, partner or work colleague probably needs you)?
Like rainclouds your thoughts will eventually pass, unless you obsess about them and let them take over your life. More thoughts will be on the way, because we are never ‘thought free’.
Given that our minds are already besieged by thoughts we probably don’t need any more material. We can choose to partially release ourselves from ‘slavery’ by taking regular breaks from texts, emails and social media and practising mindfulness. Or we can choose to open the proverbial floodgates and allow the floor of the Amazonian rainforest to become even more cluttered.
The weather is not your friend and neither are your thoughts. It’s your call.