A Therapist Takes Her Own Advice

Guided Meditation: Observing Thoughts

February 22, 2021 Rebekah Shackney Season 2 Episode 4
A Therapist Takes Her Own Advice
Guided Meditation: Observing Thoughts
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we practice the DBT Mindfulness Skill Observe. It’s one of the three What Skills David and I discussed a few weeks ago. As a reminder, Observe is noticing without pushing away or clinging to anything. We observe our external environment through our 5 senses: sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. We observe our internal world by noticing thoughts, emotions and sensations in the body. 

We will practice observing by observing thoughts. So why do this? In my experience the majority of our suffering occurs when we make interpretations. When we add to reality. And often when you struggle with anxiety and depression those interpretations are negative. I’m an idiot rather than I made a mistake. observing thoughts lets us notice our thoughts and let them go instead of mindlessly grasping onto them. Just because a thought pops into our head does not mean it’s true and yet we so often believe our thoughts and it leads to increased suffering. This skill allows us to to simply notice our thoughts and let them go.

Thanks so much for your support of A Therapist Takes Her Own Advice. If you connected with what you heard here, and you want to work with me, go to my website, rebekahshackney.com and send a message through my contact page. And if you have enjoyed what you’ve heard here, please subscribe, rate and review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Today we’re going to practice the DBT Mindfulness Skill Observe. It’s one of the three What Skills David and I discussed a few weeks ago. As a reminder, Observe is noticing without pushing away or clinging to anything. We observe our external environment through our 5 senses: sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. We observe our internal world by noticing thoughts, emotions and sensations in the body. 

 Today we will practice observing thoughts. So why do this? In my experience the majority of our suffering occurs when we make interpretations. When we add to reality. And often when you struggle with anxiety and depression those interpretations are negative. I’m an idiot rather than I made a mistake. observing thoughts lets us notice our thoughts and let them go instead of mindlessly grasping onto them. Just because a thought pops into our head does not mean it’s true and yet we so often believe our thoughts and it leads to increased suffering. This skill allows us to to simply notice our thoughts and let them go.

 

Start by sitting or lying in a comfortable position in a place where you won’t be disturbed. 

1.  Take a few slow long deep breaths.  Bring your full awareness to your breath and body. With each exhalation feel your body becoming more and more relaxed. Scan your body. Notice if your holding onto any tension. Breath into it and let it go with the next exhalation. Continue to breath and relax. 

2.  Now allow awareness of your body and breath to dissolve into the background without disappearing as you bring your thoughts into sharp focus. Liken this shift to a crossfade in a film where your attention is pulled away from one point of interest to another. Now your thoughts move to the forefront of your awareness. 

3.  Take a few moments and just notice your thoughts. Allow them to come into your consciousness and leave. Notice them without clinging to them or pushing them away. Imagine thoughts on a conveyor belt or like clouds floating by in the sky entering and exiting your awareness. Just practice noticing the thoughts and letting them go without attaching or pushing away.

4.  Some thoughts trigger an emotional reaction. You may have the urge to push away thoughts that create discomfort, but Pushing away thoughts is like standing on the shoreline trying to stop the waves with your body. It’s a losing battle. Waves will crash into you again and again. Likewise thoughts will keep returning again and again. Instead of pushing way, notice that urge to push away unwanted thoughts honor that urge without giving into it. Just allow the thought to pass in and out of your consciousness and with it the resulting emotion.

5.  You may have the urge to grasp onto a particularly compelling thought. Again, notice that urge, honor that urge and let it go. If you do find yourself attaching to a thought just bring yourself back to your thoughts as they move in and out of your awareness. 

6.  Continue to let thoughts come in and leave your mind without attaching to any of them. Just noticing them and let them go. Notice the nature of your thoughts, as opinions, judgments, interpretations, criticisms that often feel very much like fact, but thoughts are not facts. They are mental constructs shaped by many factors, including mood, emotional vulnerability, environment, hormones, stress level and many more. Still, thoughts feel so real, so much like truth. It’s so easy to believe them, to get sucked into their story but the goal is to just notice them…without attachment. 

7.  And if you notice that you are carried away by a thought, just bring yourself back to allowing them to come and go, without judgment. Its so important not to judge yourself when your mind floats away. That is just the nature of the mind. It’s part of the process. Its not an indication of failure or inability to be mindful. One meditation teacher once told me that when the mind drifts away it’s emotional stress leaving the body. 

8.   Continue to watch your thoughts for a few more moments. Just noticing them, allowing them, relaxing around them, breathing through them. 

9.   Now take a few more long slow deep breaths and when you’re ready return your focus to the room

Practicing observing your thoughts on a regular basis helps you become more aware of their nature, allowing you over time to detach, become less reactive and more mindful.