Try this: 7 Thoughts
A dear friend introduced me to the works of the late Irish poet John O'Donohue a few years ago and I recently listened to his conversation with Krista Tippett in her podcast On Being, which I highly recommend.
In this episode, from August 2015, O'Donohue shares so much brilliance, I couldn't possible condense it all into one post. However, within the extended version of the conversation he shared one life changing task — I'm so excited to share it with you.
Throughout the day, we have lots of passing thoughts. These inform what we do, how we interact with others, and how we feel. And across these thoughts that dictate our choices, we all have a few themes that emerge and recur. We also treat these recurring thoughts as neutral, unshakable truths. They're not.
Grab a blank piece of paper, or if you're like me, open a new note on your phone. Over the next week, or two weeks, or month, listen and record your frequent thoughts until you have a list of 7. We're not talking about shopping lists or errands, but the big picture thoughts. Things like:
"Everyone else is succeeding but me."
"Someone is going to find out I'm full of sh*t."
"Of course X happened! Everything terrible happens to me."
"I'm doing X wrong. Everyone else is doing X right."
How useful just to put them onto writing! To take them out of their hidden cave of passive comfort!
What does it feel like to see them written down? Is it uncomfortable to name them? Do you feel liberated taking them outside of yourself? Do you feel shame or guilt for thinking these thoughts? Without judging, try to notice how the exercise feels.
Write down the 7 recurring thoughts you'd like to have. Really take some time to work on these, perhaps as inverse to your current thoughts. Some of mine include:
"I've got this."
"I have so much to offer others."
"It's not about me." - used when encountering people who are grumpy or unkind
"I'm grateful for..." - This is about keeping gratitude for all different things in my daily life.
Keep this handy. It will likely take months to activate them and it will feel like performance at first. Your old thoughts will fight back, declaring their truth righteously, but keep repeating the 7 you want and each time you think the new thoughts, try to pause and appreciate the way they make you feel. If the old ones are still sticking, find other spaces to practice with your new thoughts. You can journal, record voice memos, talk to a friend about them, or find other creative ways to get more acquainted to them while recognizing that your old thoughts no longer serve you. Over time, as your thoughts change, you'll feel your confidence strengthen.
Many thanks to John O'Donohue for sharing his wisdom. And below, you'll find one of his incredible poems. I hope you'll receive it as a gift and share it with others.
On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets into you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green
and azure blue,
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.