By Georgia Jones
I was talking with a client the other day who was describing some harsh thoughts that were plaguing her, thoughts like “I’m horribly ugly;” “No one will ever love me;” or “I messed up again, I’ll never amount to anything.” Even just listening to her say these out loud made me feel bad. And yet, who among us hasn’t had thoughts like this to varying degrees and frequencies?
Most of the time we don’t even “hear” our negative (or positive) thoughts. They just play in the background and affect our mood and our body, weighing us down and sapping our confidence. These are the food sources for depression and anxiety.
Good news! Thoughts are just thoughts, not the truth. And, feelings are temporary and as malleable as water. I know, I know—it doesn’t seem that way. We are so fused with our thoughts and feelings that the whole world is colored and created by them. We are in a thought-haze and don’t even know it.
So, how do we burst free from this haze? We do so by cultivating mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation, the intentional practice of cultivating mindfulness, is the act of choosing an object of focus and gently bringing your attention to that object with an attitude of acceptance, openness, curiosity and nonjudgment. Try with me now. Close your eyes and just listen for a minute. Be curious and accepting of any sounds you hear. No need to understand, label or change the sounds. Just listen. Just notice. Just allow. What did you notice? Any sense of relief, freedom of simplicity? Any sense of just being present and calm?
The more you practice meditation, the easier it becomes to drop into this state of clean and simple presence. From there, you can do anything.
I teach this skill to my clients. Then we use it to loosen the grip of oppressive, cruel thoughts. We can’t stop or fight the thoughts, but imagine relating to them as you did with the sounds or like clouds drifting across the sky. They are just thoughts, that you can hold lightly, letting them appear and disappear without taking them in or believing them.
This is a superpower against the clutches of depression, anxiety and so much that plagues us. Relating to your thoughts, your emotions, yourself or the whole world from this stance feels qualitatively different from the haze most of us are in most of the time. You will feel refreshed, freed and light! Mindfulness meditation is not the only answer to states like depression and anxiety, but it is a truly powerful, paradigm-shifting tool.
Georgia Jones is a psychotherapist and owner of Chicago Mindful Psychotherapy with offices in Andersonville and The Loop. Chicago Mindful Psychotherapy provides individual, couple and group psychotherapy and teaches applied meditation. Visit or call 773-454-1807.