Every single morning you wake up with a choice. To wear or not to wear! Grubby or chic, there is some contemplation whereby you chose one look over another to accompany you all day long. The good thing about thoughts, is unlike clothes, we can change them any time or place; sometimes every minute or even less.
Only because you started off thinking negatively this morning, you’re not obliged to stick with those same self-defeating, dis-empowering thoughts. You have the power of choice!
“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.” Elizabeth Gilbert.
When I watch my little girl getting dressed all by herself, I notice how beautifully engrossed she is in the task; paying attention to detail, wanting to match (or mismatch in her case) pieces of carefully chosen items. I’ve learned to let her be. Whatever she comes out looking like is not the point, because at the end of it all, she glitters in her mismatched outfit. The point is, she is happy, she owns her final choice, and in her little mind she chose wisely.
If only we could be that meticulous and have more power over our thoughts. Choosing carefully what occupies our minds, and for how long. Knowing that these thoughts have great impacts not only on us, but also on those around us. They shape our perspectives, decisions, feelings, achievements and even our worship for that day.
Life is about choices. We know deep inside that we can’t have our feet in two boats. We learn this early. After many tantrums, scolding, and consequences, like it or not, we learn that we have to make a choice.
Despite this harsh learning, due to various reasons such as stimulation, exposure to people’s lives, and other hyper-techonology based consequences, our decision making ability gets clouded. And we allow almost any type of thought to take up space in our mind. This is called mind clutter. It’s the type of clutter that fills us up with negativity; we feel overwhelmed, unmotivated, fatigued, bored, unproductive, sad, anxious and all the other emotions that come with feeling stressed out.
How do we defy and replace such a well ingrained system of thinking? Well luckily, it’s a principle not very foreign to most of us. In the same manner that we regularly de-clutter our homes of things we don’t need, we can also apply this same principle to our minds, more specifically de-cluttering our thoughts.
Yes, we can learn to choose our thoughts. They key word here is learn. As moving away from an automatically activated mind, to one that pauses, reflects and chooses, takes some practice. And if you’re anything like I was, be more patient with the process.
This doesn’t mean that for 100% of my time I’m walking around like sunshine, beaming with colors of the rainbow. That would not be true honest progress, instead, it would be fake. We are created with emotions and feelings of all sorts. The goal is to learn to cope with the negative ones, not to mask them. To feel them as they are, accept them, seek refuge in Allah swt for them and let them go, asking Him to replace them with better ones.
One of the greatest thoughts you can have is that of being content with whatever befalls you. And for this to occur asking for patience is one of the most important requests you can make.
Like my little girl who chooses her clothes wisely, you too can chose your thoughts and then own them. Remember you are human and programmed to have all types of thoughts, the good, bad and ugly. If there is something to be sad about, than choose to feel sad consciously so that you can then proactively deal with it. Don’t mask it, or bury it under a false positive emotion just to find yourself in a greater mess later on. Instead, learn when to draw the line.
Remember what you want to avoid is mind clutter. The buildup of lingering, stagnant thoughts that keep you stuck. You can only do this by learning what is in your mind, and then going through them, allowing them to move in and out, without judgement, or harshness, but instead with acceptance and peace. And ultimately, letting go those that build up negativity.
I’ve learned something magnificent about thoughts and emotions, and that is, I can choose what and how to feel more than I ever imagined.
Let’s apply! Remember that once this process becomes a habit, you will not have to work very hard at taking out specific time to making good thought choices, the choices will become easier and more natural throughout your day.
- Intention: make it clear that you are doing this to seek the pleasure of Allah swt. Learning to manage and choose your thoughts will allow you to play out your life roles with clarity, purity and purpose.
- Dua: there is no success without the help of Allash swt. Ask Him to make it easy on you.“…And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him.” (Qur’an, 65:3). Reliance on Allah isn’t just the action of your tongue, but is to be firm in your heart. Ibn Ata’illah stated:
- Find a space in your home where you can practice self-awareness for your thoughts. Even better, when you first begin this practice, try it after each Salah. This will give you 5 times of self-reflection and de-cluttering during your day. Take the time to listen to your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Remember, I said listen, not judge. This is also the best time to make Dua for good thoughts!
- Choose carefully which emotions you want into your space. By doing this you will identify the thoughts and emotions that accompany each other. In this way, by wanting to feel the emotion of contentment or gratitude you will consciously choose thoughts that correspond to those emotions. Ask yourself, which ones makes you smile, tickle your tummy? Which ones fill your heart?
- Choose carefully which emotions you don’t want into your space. Again, by doing this you will identify the thoughts and emotions that accompany each other. In this way, by not wanting to feel sad, you will consciously not choose sad thoughts. Say to yourself, I want to rid myself of worries, fears, and sadness. I want to learn to cope with them and then allow them to flow out of my space.
Remember it’s a journey, longer for some than others, but it’s one worth venturing out on.