Watching our thoughts is so powerful. Yesterday I attended a gathering of people including one person who is not my favorite. I was dreading seeing this person and had conjured the familiar list of reasons why I didn't want to see her. But this time, instead of walking away when seeing her, I did something different. I sat there, and talked to her, and listened. And I simultaneously watched my thoughts.
I watched the thoughts of judgment, of disdain. The thoughts that said "you should leave now." The thoughts that said "this is not worth my time." I sat through it all. I wanted to leave so badly, but I didn't. I stayed. And as I wittnessed my thoughts and didn't leave, something interesting happened.
I started to connect. I started to see her as a person, and not as an enemy. I actually listened to what she said. Playing witness to my thoughts gave me the opportunity to just be with myself...to accept all the noise, and the ego voice that was taking someone else down. I did not let those thoughts drive me away from the conversation. I sat and watched, and that sitting allowed me to be present with someone else.
Our thoughts can keep us separated from others, and can make us anxious. After all, they are there to protect us, right? Those old, familiar, anxious thoughts that tell us to run, that we can't handle the situation, that something BAD is going to happen, that it's intolerable....these are all just old protective strategies aimed to keep us alive, but we don't have to believe them. Instead, like sitting in your car at a railroad crossing, we can just watch the connection of train cars go by.
Today, challenge yourself to watch your thoughts for a moment. Take a small conversation - just 5 minutes. When you find yourself reacting, wanting to fight back, tune out, or walk away, just stay and witness what is happening. Try to listen to all the comments your mind is making, without judgment or critiquing them. Then see what happens.