Last weekend I was reminded quite by chance about something I learned seven years ago, working with American psychologist Dr Roger Mills. Dr Mills passed away in 2010 but what he taught me and hundreds of others about inner wisdom, innate calmness and the nature of thought, is eternal.
The reason for my memory being jogged was a chance meeting with another disciple of Dr Mills’ teaching. Damian Smyth has written a book about The Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought, entitled Do Nothing – Stop Looking Start Living – The Simple Way to a Fantastic Life. It’s a long title which promises much – yet what the book addresses really does have the power to transform even the most down-trodden and difficult life experience.
When I met Dr Mills in 2004 I was struggling to overcome post-natal depression after the birth of my second child. After many months of looking to see how I might conquer my condition without the aid of medically prescribed drugs the understanding I gained from my first meeting with Dr Mills was sufficient to help me resolve my issues practically overnight.
I learned that I was creating my reality with my thinking. And constantly thinking about how exhausted I was and how difficult life was with a new baby and a 5 year old were just bringing me lower and lower. I began to see how I didn’t need to “believe” my own thinking, and that whenever the low quality thoughts passed through I just let them go. I remember standing in the shower one morning, already beginning to feel exhausted and low, but then just choosing consciously to think something different and immediately feeling tons better. It was a watershed moment for me – and it’s something that I’ve made an integral part of the way I live my life and how I conduct my relationships with my children, my husband, my family and friends and everyone I meet.
What I have subsequently found with journal writing is that it reinforces an unassailable truth about being human – that we are able to think BUT we are not our thoughts.
Being able to reflect on our opinions, beliefs and habitual way of thinking sets up a necessary distance between our thoughts and ourselves as thinker. It’s like sitting next to the conveyor belt on the Generation Game, watching all the items trundle past. We can similarly watch our thoughts go by without getting hooked by or attached to them.
In putting words onto the page we are giving form to our thinking. This means we can look at our thoughts objectively. We can appreciate their meaning and understand their impact. We can then choose whether our words are showing us a healthy way of looking at the world, or whether there is a different way that is available to us.
Invariably there is a different way, and by allowing ourselves to write freely and reflect we are able to find it. This is because we each have an inner compass or wisdom – I sometimes refer to it as an inner thread of integrity – which journal writing helps us to access. It gives us our resilience and our creativity and enables us to let go of our thoughts, which sometimes can be quite tyrannical before we realise that they are not us, after all.