Last week, I wrote a post in which I explained what I mean by the term, “empowered thinking.” One of the things I said about “thinking,” is that you have a limited amount of mental space and it’s up to you to choose what to fill it with. In this post, I’ll share 3 practices for using our thinking to “bring ourselves home.”
A synonym1 for “thinking” is “rational,” which can also mean “balanced,” or “coherent.”
“Balanced and coherent,” to me, has to do with being whole. Too often in my life I’ve felt lost, with nothing meaningful to bind myself to. Homeless, in the spiritual sense of the word. Fragmented and broken. I’m sure I’m not the only one who sometimes feels this way.
Unbridled thinking doesn’t help with this; it makes it worse. But I do have three practices that I find helpful, and maybe they’ll be helpful for you too.
The three practices are:
- Let someone else do the thinking for you
- Think on a deeper level
- Stop thinking entirely
Let’s take a look at them, one by one.
1. Let someone else do the thinking for you
I’m a big advocate for taking responsibility for what you give mental real estate to, but that doesn’t have to mean being constantly vigilant. Take a break sometimes and let someone else do the hard work for you.
I carefully and deliberately choose to read and listen to stuff that makes me feel good, that makes me feel safer, empowered, hopeful, encouraged. I seek antidotes to the things about our culture and our time that trouble me.
I look for writers, teachers, guides, mentors, elders, role models who think in ways that I want to emulate. Then I sit back, relax, and let them do the hard work for me.
I chose the picture at the top of this post to illustrate that if you choose it carefully, the content you consume—the books you read and the media watch or listen to—can make a bridge that will take you places you couldn’t go any other way. Or at least, nowhere near as easily as just by reading a book or listening to a podcast.
Make it a habit to read or listen daily to someone who inspires or comforts you, right here in your own skin. You’ll never regret it.
2. Think on a deeper level
Most of our thinking happens on a surface level. Sometimes we’re problem solving, but often we’re just ruminating shallowly, wasting mental mileage with nothing useful to show for it.
Journaling, and free writing using prompts to help direct the process, are wonderful tools for helping us notice what’s going on a bit deeper inside ourselves.
So long as you keep it safe for yourself by refusing to edit or critique your writing (and don’t show it to anyone else who will evaluate it in any way!) this kind of writing bypasses the surface thinking and pulls stuff up from deeper inside you.
If you’ve heard the term “shadow work,” you know what I’m talking about, but this kind of work could also be called self-reflection or self-examination or self-compassion.
The “shadow self” was initially named as such by the 20th century psychologist Carl Jung. The word “shadow” refers to hidden parts of our being, aspects of ourselves that we’re not consciously aware of.
We pushed these hidden aspects of ourselves down out of conscious awareness during early childhood as we learned what was acceptable behaviour in our family, and what was not. We learned to hide attributes that did not meet with our caregivers’ approval, and we got so good at keeping them hidden that we forgot those parts are even there.
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ~ Carl Jung
This “splitting off” of unacceptable pieces of yourself is sometimes called fragmentation. Your “shadow” is where the unwanted aspects wait in hiding until you are ready to call them home, as an adult who can provide them with the safety that was not available to them while you were growing up.
In my experience, journaling is a free, safe practice of self-reflection that helps bring awareness and acceptance to these lost aspects of ourselves. It’s powerful integrative work that over time and with dedication can help you feel more whole and more present, and give you a sense of having more of a right take up space in the world.
3. Stop thinking entirely
I left this one till last because although its the simplest practice, for me it’s been the most challenging one to develop. Meditation.
It’s taken me more than 14 years to oh-so gradually, with oh so many steps backwards for each step forwards, develop a reliable, daily, almost-without-fail meditation practice.
I won’t go into details about what meditation is or about my journey with it, because that would take a whole other post. All I’ll say here is that for me, it has been worth every step and every misstep. (There are endless resources available on learning to meditate or deepening your practice, if you’re serious about seeking them out.)
Some days, my meditation is just sitting on a cushion feeling slightly uncomfortable and trying not to think about what else I could be doing with that time. But those days are getting fewer, and the other kind are getting more frequent.
The other kind is where with just a little effort, I can sink into a deep feeling of “belonging,” of safety and comfort. It’s simultaneously a sense of being “held” and also of feeling limits fall away.
I’m in no doubt whatsoever that this experience of belonging is a profound antidote to all the separation, angst, and worries that beset us in these troubled times.
I hope these three ideas have been helpful. May you develop or strengthen your own practices for homecoming, and may your homecoming be deep and real for you.
- A synonym is a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another word, depending on the context