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Thinking 101

by Ashley Pennewill

In the last issue, we talked about Feelings 101. I once heard our society described as being “feelings-phobic,” and wow, what a term! It’s so true, especially for men, and understanding our feelings is a big shift that’s happening now. And it’s a very important one because the less our feelings run the show, the more peace we will have. Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with feelings. But when we don’t understand them for exactly what they are — temporary energies — we’ll inadvertently let them run the show. When this happens, we tend to say and do things we regret, and mole hills routinely become mountains. All it takes to live differently is some education, followed by lots of gentle, loving practice.

So why would we follow up Feelings 101 by talking about Thinking 101? Because in general, our feelings come directly from our thoughts. You can think of feelings as being the body’s reaction to what’s going on in the mind. In this sense, feelings become a very useful guidance system reminding us to look at the quality of our thinking. And trust me — we’ve all done some very low quality thinking before. It can be frantic, negative, critical, exaggerating, and even outright lying. This type of thinking can be called “the voice in the head.” For most people it never shuts up! And it’s typically nothing more than conditioning that we learned as children and that hardens into an old habit as we live year after year.

Well, folks, there’s good news because we also have a good voice that’s built-in. You can call it wisdom or plain old common sense. Every culture and religion probably has its own name or names, and a Christian might call it the voice of the Holy Spirit. What I do for a living is teach people how to live their lives listening to that voice, rather than the chatterbox. And you know what? The more we practice this, the more we experience good feelings automatically. A deeper feeling of peace already exists inside of us, but we constantly create layers of other feelings on top of it.

Let’s talk a bit more about our wisdom. First of all, it’s a quieter voice than the chatterbox. It’s not trying to talk first or loudest — that’s what the voice in the head does. But it’s always there. I love the book Somebody Should Have Told Us by Jack Pransky; it’s simple, relaxed, and conversational, yet deep and powerful  at the same time. Pransky describes our wisdom as being like soft flute music, while the voice in the head is a loud brass band. Whenever we stop listening to the brass band, we can hear the flute music. This is because it’s always there, anytime we listen for it. For most people, it seems like the voice in the head is like a tape that’s playing and they have no choice but to listen to it. But if you really look, you’ll see that you’re the one doing the talking, and you can stop anytime.

And of course it starts again, so you stop again. Wash, rinse, repeat. So we practice. And over time, it loses its power. Another thing about our wisdom or common sense is that it doesn’t have a whole lot to say — it gets right to the heart of the matter. The chatterbox, on the other hand, talks all day long, taking both sides of the issue, unable to make up its mind, and it just doesn’t really get anywhere. So it’s as if there are two radio stations, and only two.

Lots of counseling is about dissecting and analyzing the chatterbox and trying to upgrade it. So what do the clients do? They judge themselves for “not thinking right” or “not doing it right.” Just as in changing the radio station, my approach is much easier and more effective because it simply says to stop listening to that trash! After all, nobody else hears it or even cares. We have a good source of thinking that came with the package, so let’s use it. If we look at a pie chart illustrating how much time we spend listening to each station, we want our wisdom to be the biggest piece possible. And when we notice we’re listening to the voice in the head — because it’s no less than an addiction that we’re breaking-we simply switch the station on the spot.

Once we do, we’ll feel better and better. We’ll handle situations better. We’ll communicate better, and so our relationships will become better as a result. And this will make our work lives and social lives better. And you know what else it’ll make better? It’ll make our family lives better. Learning about your thinking and the two radio stations is the number one thing you can do to improve every aspect of your life. So I wish you well on your journey. You’ve already learned all you need to know right here, so it’s time to gently and lovingly practice. And people like me are always here to help.

Ashley Pennewill lives in Pensacola where he provides counseling services to anyone interested in getting out of the way of the awesome life that’s just beneath the surface waiting to be discovered. You can learn more about letting go and waking up at acleanmind.com.

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