“I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Once upon a time my mind was filled with negative talk and self-doubt. Those thoughts were so loud I could not hear my authentic self shine through. On a deeper level I knew she existed, but I didn't how to connect with her.
I believed I would have to work at it, change myself, somehow be good enough so I could be free to be myself. I believed the key to happiness was figuring out how to fix everything that was wrong with me (and oh, was there a lot to fix).
If I fixed myself, then I could enjoy life and be that free woman I always envisioned myself to be. Little did I know the key to this freedom wasn't fixing myself at all, but realizing that the little voice coming up with all those things to fix was a big, fat liar!
The most profound and important realization I've ever had came from reading a little book called A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It was that I am not my thoughts, but the awareness behind them.
Wow. My true self is the awareness behind my thoughts, and she is always here! I have the power right now to choose from which place I act—what a magical concept!
I then started looking at all of the areas in my life in which I could inject a little space between my thoughts and my awareness. I examined where my thoughts made me feel stuck, trapped, or hopeless.
My outer world, like myself, wasn't something that needed to be fixed, changed, or controlled so that I could experience peace in the future. This outer reality was a direct reflection of my thoughts, and as they stayed rooted in negativity, so did my world.
True freedom doesn't come in the future, from a situation, or “from” anything at all, but is within you right now.
The following are four ways you can shift your thoughts so you can feel freer, lighter, and happier in your life instantly.
1. Don't take anything personally.
Each person's opinion is solely the product of their own life and reality.
It's hard to imagine this. It's way easier to get offended or mad or to internalize and believe what they said. Rather than getting consumed by it, obsessed over it, and letting it affect you, just let it go. Hear what they say, accept that it is a reflection of their world, and poof. See the thought disappear.
This is also true when someone is giving you advice. Have you ever shared your biggest dream? The responses can be all over the place. One person may say, “Good luck with that, maybe you should come back to earth” while another may be all about it, “YES! Go for it!”
Does that mean the first person doesn't believe in you? Absolutely not. It means (s)he doesn't believe in himself. In other words, it's hard for that person to imagine your dream in his own realm of possibility.
When someone says something to you, whether it be an insult, piece of advice, or anything at all, connect back to your awareness. Only you can know what is true or not. By taking another person's opinion of yourself to heart and choosing to believe it, you are doing yourself a huge injustice.
2. Don't be a victim.
It's easy to think that the world is against you. Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes wrong? It happens. There are things in our control and out of our control. You can't control the world around you, but you can control how you react to things. Don't fall into the downward spiral of the victim trap.
Embrace each and every thing that happens as an opportunity. When something “bad” happens ask, “What is the universe trying to tell me?”
Often it's saying stop, slow down, and come back to the present before your life zips past you. And if it's not saying that, it's saying something. So listen.
Accept situations as signs or opportunities, and remember that there is a purpose and a greater good to each. Look for the lesson rather than getting stuck in victim mode.
My new favorite mantra when the times are tough is “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Feeling gratitude for all things, at all times is incredibly freeing.
3. Be gentle, kind, and compassionate with yourself.
As the awareness behind your thoughts, acknowledge what you say about yourself. Are your thoughts kind? Or are you your own worst critic? When you look in the mirror, do you see pure beauty, or do you pick yourself apart?
Imagine having a little person on your shoulder telling you horrible things about yourself all day long. Sounds awful, doesn't it? How do you think that would affect your life? Well, that is what we're doing to ourselves if we stay in a place of constant negative self-talk.
Work on shifting your thoughts to ones that are more loving and kind. Every time you think something negative about yourself, replace it with a positive. Focus on the good things and give attention to your awesomeness. Eventually, you will start believing them. Doing so allows you to have the freedom to just be you.
4. Practice forgiveness.
The powerful F word. Oprah said it best: “Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can be changed.” Forgiveness isn't about saying that whatever happened was okay, right, or just, but about letting it go.
Forgiving is releasing the power that a certain event has on you. By not forgiving you are keeping your mind in the past, thinking and wishing that things could have been different. This traps you and makes you feel powerless.
Forgiveness puts you back into the present—the only time that truly exists—where you have the power to live free and happy.
Next time you feel stuck, turn your awareness within. What do your thoughts look like? Allow your mind's grip to release so the joy can flow in.
Photo by Atilla Kefeli