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Compassion for Unwanted Thoughts

Compassion for Unwanted Thoughts

Normally when we learn to direct self-compassion toward our suffering and challenges, we find the places inside where we feel stuck, inadequate or hurt. This includes identifying where the discomfort shows up in the physical body. But to do this, we need the capacity to pause and investigate what is happening.

Sometimes that’s hard when the mind is caught in the rapids of thought, rushing ahead, seemingly out of control. Most of us have certain thoughts that at times get caught on continuous loop: reactive, negative, critical or comparing. For many, the ongoing challenges with Covid amplify these thought loops. 

In mindfulness training, we’re encouraged to find the place in our bodies where we feel the corresponding sensations to help us stabilize our attention in the present moment. This is very effective. Yet sometimes the mind is so busy, the feelings so challenging that finding this stopping point is difficult. Or we may do this briefly then get caught again in the rapids. 

When this happens, try offering compassion to unwelcome thoughts rather than try and stop them, This may seem counter-intuitive, but just a moment’s pause can help slow the rapids. 

With this practice, you are directing compassionate awareness toward persistent mental activity and creating a more patient relationship with the unwanted thoughts. Take some conscious breaths as you do this. Once you find a little stability, you can then begin to expand the compassion to include your body and heart. You may even discover these tenacious thoughts represent some part of you that needs to be seen and heard. 

Kind awareness, even toward persistent, unwanted thoughts, can help slow the rapids and open the door to a more patient and wise response when other approaches seem unworkable.