What would a 21 day fast from negative thinking be like? I don’t know, I haven’t managed it yet. I am thoroughly intrigued by the idea, though. Gay Hendricks, author of Conscious Living, mentions how he put himself on a “negativity diet” for a whole year! As he says, he refused to speak of his limitations with regard to anything; that he would only speak of possibilities. Edwene Gaines, author of the Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity also suggests refraining from negative thinking; she advocates a 21 day fast from negative thoughts.
I liked the idea of a 21 day fast. It seemed doable, achievable. I decided to start during the month of December, with the possibility of reaching the 21st day of the fast on Christmas – think about it – what an awesome gift to myself!
However, it was rather frightening how rapidly the negative thoughts poured in, especially once a ban was placed on them. I vowed to start over from day zero every time a negative thought entered my brain. Now, I have to admit, I didn’t let myself off the hook, it was as much about the tone of the thought as it was about what I was thinking; for example, a complaint about the weather, “Yuck! It’s too cold to go for a run,” qualified as a negative thought. Had I, instead, phrased the thought as, “It’s brisk out there – I think I’ll lift weights today,” I would not have had to start over from day one. Twice, not once, twice; I had to start over because I’d messed up before the clock struck noon. One Saturday morning the whole thing was over by 8:30 a.m. and I wasn’t even out of bed yet! While I did manage the feat for three consecutive days, during which I felt victorious, by the fourth day, BAM! Negative thought! I was seriously discouraged.
And then it came to me. I needed some baby steps before I tried to go all pro, all the time. Instead of trying to resist my negative thoughts, and resistance was obviously proving futile, what if I simply investigated them, inquired into what was lurking behind them, and worked to understand their essence? Now, I must give credit where credit is due, because I didn’t come up with this idea entirely on my own, I’m sure it was inspired by reading a passage in one of Gay Hendricks’ books (forgive me for not being able to quote him directly!).
And it really works! Yes. Yes. Yes, it does! Remarkably, my head feels so much lighter. My intention, beginning on January 1st, 2012 was to be present to my negative thoughts. This simple act of noticing has already been helpful. What I’m discovering is the actual number of negative thoughts rolling around has rapidly diminished; granted I did not take a tally before I started all of this to really know if my negative thoughts numbered into the hundreds, or thousands, or whatever, perhaps the same five over and over again.
However, I have narrowed down the tone of my negative thoughts, and I’ve been able to identify the five key categories my brain likes to employ: worry, judgment, complaints, limiting beliefs, and what I like to call “fake conversations”. Although, five categories seems like quite a few; it’s been good to recognize a thought for what it is, for example: “What if the world runs out of a fresh water supply?” (Worry – and a rather useless worry since it is not something I can control except for my own water use.) “I don’t think I will ever be able to lift weights without throwing my neck out; it’s always what happens.” (A limiting belief – this doesn’t allow for another method of weight lifting.) Fake conversations actually probably deserve a blog article all of their own, but these are the conversations in my head based on past events where I reconstruct a dialogue about a particular topic so that things come out more to my liking. Fake conversations are exhausting.
What I’m finding out is the simple act of HEARING what I think begins to quiet my mind. When a thought enters my mind, I’m able to say, “Well, Hello, Complaint! What exactly are you whining about today?” And then once I really listen to what is going on, I’m able to decide if the thought is something I can rephrase into a positive statement or just let go. Amazingly, once I’ve done either of these two things, the thought doesn’t come back.
Wow. It’s quiet like the peaceful sunrise in my brain!