Question: I understand the need to be aware of when I am thinking negative thoughts or going over in my mind past situations that didn't go well, however what do I do instead? Could it be as simple as turning my mind to something else such as an affirmation that I can tell myself at those times?
Answer: Once we see -- actually realize -- that we are harming ourselves with habitual patterns of negative thinking... then the question of "What else should I do?" is a little like asking, "How do I get off a sinking boat?" Observe yourself in such moments where you find yourself in futile thoughts about whatever and you'll see that when you drop thought you're automatically brought (back) into the present moment... and this is where we want to be... aware of the whole of ourselves, in the moment -- an action that requires taking no thought at all.
The "hard" part of this practicing of presence in the now is that our habitual mind, the false self, wants to know itself through one thought or another... and so it will start dangling ideas, images, desires, etc. in front of us until we take the bait and jump into whatever temporary identity those thoughts provide.
Here is a little exercise to work at. It's called, Stop, Drop, and Endure. When you catch the self-talk starting, stop right where you are; become as aware as you can of what you are connected to, and the conflict inherent in that relationship. Then, while remaining aware like this, drop the thoughts; disconnect yourself from the sense of self you had the moment before. Work at being watchful instead of becoming the instrument of what is willful in you as a result of your inner effort. Then, while remaining aware and in the present moment, simply bear the pushing and pulling that your old thought-self will subject you to in order to get you back into its fold. Work at this and you will learn more than a million books could ever teach you!
This article is an excerpt from www.GuyFinleyNow.org, Life of Learning's Online Wisdom Center directed by Guy Finley.