The one fundamental thing that mindfulness practice has in common with all contemplative practices is the fundamental understanding that there is not anything keeping you anxious or unhappy other than your own thoughts.
This is an important thing to understand, so I will repeat it.
There is not anything keeping you anxious or unhappy other than your own thoughts.
Meditate on it and you will see for yourself that it is true.
All of your anger, all of your anxiety, all of your worry, all of your stress and all of your depression is ultimately created by YOU. We blame others, we blame our circumstances and we take various medications to find relief or resolution. But the relief or resolution we are searching for never really comes because ultimately we are looking in the wrong place.
As a psychotherapist, again and again I meet people become very frustrated and disappointed when they realize that they are the ones causing mental turmoil for themselves. No one is ultimately doing it to them. They are choosing it even though it often feels that circumstances are the cause. They would prefer that someone or something else solves their problem. They are looking outside of themselves for a cure (and a lot of people/corporations are getting very wealthy off of this endless search). They do not realize that there is no external cure to be found. The cure involves doing the inner work for themselves. Many people just do not want to do it and thus perpetuate their own unhappiness.
I will occasionally experience depression (sadness), anxiety and anger. It comes in passing waves like the weather or the weekends. Because of my mindfulness practice I am able to see the root cause of my anger, depression and/or anxiety when it arises and then quickly do the inner work so that I do not become reactive or stuck in it. I see that what is causing these negative emotional states is my thoughts and as a result of this insight I am able to refocus my attention off my thoughts and into the present moment.
For example, yesterday I felt myself becoming angry with a friend of mine who did not agree with something that I wanted to do. I felt like he was not listening to me and also not trusting that what I wanted to do would work. He was opposing me in a way that made me feel anger. I felt my chest constricting and my voice rise. I wanted to release uncomfortable pressure by reacting. I noticed that my thoughts were racing and filled with negative, self-righteous and victimized content. Immediately, I took my attention off my thoughts. I focused on my breathing. I reminded myself that I was just standing in my kitchen, noticing that the rain was coming down outside. I felt my feet on the ground and noticed my hand touching the cold kitchen counter. I came “back to reality” and in a matter of moments the anger dissolved away. I also was able to realize that what my friend was suggesting was actually a better solution than what I wanted to do.
There is not anything keeping you anxious or unhappy other than your thoughts.
Realize this tip again and again through out your day and you will drastically improve the conditions of your life. You will not need medications, doctors and other people to cure the psychological and emotional duress that is within you. You will be able to take charge of your own inner life and as a result transform your external life. This is not an easy thing to do, but by doing just five minutes of mindfulness practice everyday it will make it much easier to see that the cause of most of your unhappiness is the thoughts in your head.
So go ahead. Take a few moments and come “back to reality.” Take your attention off all those thoughts spiraling around in your head and notice where your body is in time and space. Feel your feet on the ground. Notice what you are seeing and hearing. Breathe.