Have you noticed how all your thoughts – positive, negative and neutral, repeat themselves? You might realise that you are going round in circles. You experience thoughts and emotions that don’t differ greatly from when you were a child.
Life-long circles of behaviour
Many of the beliefs we picked up in our childhoods remain within us and we re-play them continuously. Eckhart Tolle says, we bring our stories with us:
Every fragment of self-talk is a little story in the head that goes around, and then you look at reality through the lens of the little story.
Deep patterns of thought
This is why sitting to meditate is a way to break through habits and stop you going round in circles. It’s known as ‘insight meditation’.
You become aware that you have a thought pattern of reactivity. These are deep patterns of thought, Rob Nairn describes them as ‘deep ocean currents’.
We don’t always realise how much our choices arise unconsciously, dominated by reactivity. Our brains are happy with replaying neural pathways that have played out for years. They’re called our habits.
We’re often more aware of physical habits – like bad eating patterns, smoking, watching too much TV.
We might be less aware of our prejudices, self-beliefs and assumptions. We might like to judge other groups of people who hold extreme views as being wrong and are the only people who hold strong beliefs. But be aware – we all have deeply help beliefs and thought patterns. We play them out all the time.
Assumptions and expectations
So when you get the chance, notice how you are relating to someone. You might be making an assumption or you have certain expectations. Maybe you realise that you’re acting out with little awareness. This is usually automatic, and reinforces the same behaviour you’ve always engaged in.
Without ‘insight’ we all continue to behave the same as we’ve always done. Without stopping to pause, to be aware that there could be a different reaction, we continue playing out unconscious thoughts and behaviours. These thoughts may be based on outmoded views and it’s possible we need to update our thinking.
When you sit in stillness to meditate, your previously unconcious behaviour is exposed. You start to see these behaviours and how you feel a lack of control over them. They are usually automatic and once you start to become aware of them, to begin to break them.
With insight meditation, the mind can become free from negative patterns. But it’s a life-long skill! I sometimes feel I’m no further along the path than when I began! I often see my reactivity after the event – not at the time.
However, this means you can still go back and apologise or re-examine your initial response. When you’re more willing to look at your behaviour you can start to see a better way. Don’t be too proud to do this! Second chances are precious things.
Don’t forget to be compassionate with yourself as you sit with curiosity about your choices. It’s part of the human condition. You’re more likely to get back up after a fall and do things differently if you are kind to yourself. If you berate yourself, you’ll lose heart.
So how do you stop going round in circles?
Recognise the behaviour that’s playing out.
Ask yourself what’s going on. Focus on your body for clues (clenched fists, a tight throat, a rise in body temperature, sweating palms, a ‘knotted’ stomach etc) or a feeling of shame or regret.
Gently see where you might behave differently.
Sit and allow your inner wisdom to arise.
Be compassionate towards yourself, as we are all human.
By giving yourself time to sit and meditate, you can make little changes, one insight at a time.
Do share this post if you’ve found it helpful in any way.
Short blog post: A Basic Meditation to Strengthen Neural Connections
Another great post: 10 Powerful Mantras to Stop You From Judging People
Website for: Eckhart Tolle
Yvette Jane – Mindfulness & Meditation Guide