Monday, February 25, 2013

Step Away from the Thought


Years ago, I was standing on the sidewalk in Paris chatting with a group of friends. When I moved toward the curb to let some people pass by, I was close to a parked car. Suddenly, a man’s deep voice boomed, “Step away from the car. Step away from the car.” I had never encountered a recorded voice car alarm like this, and I quickly put some distance between me and that car, much to the amusement of everyone who saw me yelp and leap back!

I was reminded of this incident recently when I read a passage in A Course in Miracles about developing the habit of engaging our minds with God, open always to divine presence, united with all beings in our sacred unity. We can develop this habit by actively refusing to let our minds “slip away.”

Our minds can slip away when we get caught up in regretting something from the past, or worrying about something in the future. We can slip away into resentment or blaming or shame or anxiety. Lately, I’ve been thinking about something that happened years ago when someone hurt my feelings. And about a different time when I let someone down. I can get stuck in these thoughts, turning them over and over in my mind, churning up distress.

Before I know it, I have slipped far away from the present moment, far away from God, far away from peace and joy. A Course in Miracles says that when we catch ourselves slipping away with these thoughts, we need not fight them or judge them or reject them. We can simply “step away from them.”

When we have realigned ourselves with the divine, then our inner wisdom will guide us rather than our fear. If action is needed, we will know what to do, and we will have the courage to do it. If stillness is needed, we will know that, too, and we will have the serenity to wait.

So now, when I catch myself getting too close to thoughts that do not serve me, I hear a gentle voice. “Step away from the thought. Step away from the thought.”

The sage lets go of that and chooses this. ~Tao Te Ching

related posts: You Are Here; Thought Camping

49 comments:

  1. I like your "step away, from the thought, I have for a long time used the word disconnect, and still I've fallen into the same trap of paying far too much attention to matters that really need me to simply let go. It's ironic, I can really use this logic today, thank you Galen.

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    1. Karen, Disconnect is a good reminder, too. Whatever works to help us detach from the thought. Glad this was timely. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. Galen, I needed to read this today. I just wrote about intrusive thoughts and how I try to override them with other thoughts. I like the phrase "step away from the thought"--I think that would be a good reminder for me, and something I can remember to say when I find that my mind has slipped away. Thank you for writing this.

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    1. Tina, I like this reminder to step away because it is gentle and even a bit humorous. When I tell myself to step away from the thought (in my best imitation of that car voice!), I always smile. Thanks for your comment.

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  3. I need to practice this. :) I have been trying to purposely
    think of things I am grateful for when I catch myself
    focusing on negative situations/emotions.

    But, right now things are still very raw. I will try to
    imagine you jumping, and startled, at that car voice. LOL!

    I am sure that would have scared me good too!

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    1. Betty, I'm told I looked pretty funny! Thinking about our blessings is a great way to disengage from negative thought traps. Gratitude solves a lot is issues! Thanks for commenting.

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  4. Hmm. I suppose a New Ager would call such thoughts energetic cords of attachment, and Eckhart Tolle would call them "making up stories about a now that isn't now." But your approach is sound in any case, no matter what you call it. Bully for you! :)

    Your incident with the car reminds me of when I was two years old, and my parents took me to the pastor's house for a visit after church. I was already frightened of toilets at the time, because I could see my reflection in them, which I referred to as “the funny Jenny.”

    When I went to use the pastor's restroom, and sat down on the toilet, a loud voice came booming out of it, saying “Hey, I'm WORKING down here!” Apparently they had some sort of trick toilet seat, and nobody had thought to warn the toddler about it. Naturally I was utterly terrified, and ran down the hall into the room where everyone was visiting with my pants around my ankles.

    Now there's a moment from the past that I don't care to dwell on, even though in retrospect it's pretty funny. I'm surprised I was ever able to use a bathroom again, frankly. :-)

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    1. Wow, Jennifer, considering the state that some people are in when they visit their pastor, I'm not sure that trick toilet seat was such a good idea!

      Your story reminded me of my son James, who did not like toilets in public places when he was a toddler because the flush was often so loud. He would only use the one at home.

      Thanks for sharing your story. It's good that we can both laugh at ourselves now. Thanks for commenting.

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  5. Galen,
    I love how the Course reminds us that it doesn't have to be hard. That it could be gentle. All of this can be gentle, wouldn't it be so much easier.

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    1. Jodi, I agree. I find that I am drawn to techniques that do not create judgment or conflict. Sort of a "be water" Taoist approach! Thanks for commenting.

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  6. Hi Galen,
    Up until a couple of years ago I used to believe that my thoughts were true.
    That is until I started to practice mindfulness meditation.
    I am now more detached from my thoughts because I understand that I am not my thoughts, I'm having a thought.
    So if I have a thought where I judge something about myself negatively I find it easier to question the validity or truth of that thought.
    Usually I can't find any evidence that the thought is fact.

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    1. Priska, That is a good distinction between being your thoughts and having a thought. I like that! I, too, find meditation very helpful in separating myself from my thoughts. Thanks for your comment.

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  7. Galen: The moose is a refreshing scene. I love moose. In New Hampshire, we had many living on our property. They are big, strong, and could not care less about the past. No one can actually hurt your feelings with words. Only you can do that to yourself. Occasionally, people attempt to hurt me with words, but I prefer to simply be disappointed in them.

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    1. JJ, When I saw this photo I knew I wanted to use it! When I lived in Montana, we had moose around, too. I was sleeping once out under the stars and at dawn a moose almost stepped on me! You have a great attitude about life (a moose attitude?). Thanks for your comment.

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  8. "Step away from the thought." - Love that line. It took me awhile to realize that I control my thoughts, not the other way around. Sometimes is takes a challenge in your life, to bring you back to living in the present moment, and gaining the tools to give your life meaning. Thanks for sharing - love the moose!

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    1. Cathy, I love it, too--both the line and the moose. I laugh at myself every time I use the line, and now I think I will have the visual image of the moose. Thanks for commenting.

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  9. This was also a difficult lesson for me to learn, but one I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. I've never been one, at least as an adult, to routinely remember my dreams, but lately, as in the past several months, I've found them disturbing and alarming - it's as if I'm at peace with the world when I'm awake, but allow the demons to rise and haunt me when I can do the least about them. I found this disconcerting until I realized God is helping me process my worries and my anxieties about the future of my country and teaching me to leave all in His hands, whether I'm awake or asleep.
    Thank you, Galen, for this marvelous post!
    Blessings!

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    1. Martha, That's so interesting. I went through a period recently of having very worrisome dreams, full of anxiety and dread. I had not thought about it like that until I just read your comment--that is so helpful. Blessings back to you. And thanks for commenting.

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  10. I dream almost every night but I never can remember many details when I wake up. I have had an oddly disaster-free life (so far!), so I have no demons or scary thoughts that bubble up before dawn. But I do have regrets and wishes for a second chance while I am awake. "Step away from the thoughts" is an excellent approach.

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    1. Bob, For me, it is those "day" thoughts that most trouble me. I can get caught in worrying about something in the future, or regretting something in the past, or judging something in the present. The reminder to step away helps me disengage from those thinking loops and brings me back to the present. Thanks for commenting.

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  11. I love simple but profound slogans like "step away from that thought" to remind us to stay in divine presence. I can't help but remember that one; it's so simple and memorable. Thank you!

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    1. Sandra, If you add the moose image, it's even easier to remember! Thanks for commenting.

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  12. This comes at a perfect time for me. I have just recently started to develop a relationship with my god. I find myself slipping into resentments and what we call future tripping. I had no idea I was doing this until I became spiritually aware, getting stuck in the past has been hard for me to get over. I pray a simple prayer a thousand times a day to help me to see the way out. I pray for insight to release me from the bondage of the past. I pray that I will have an open heart that I might receive the message when sent. A thousand times a day is not an exaggeration, at the moment it is simply necessary that I not forget I am not God.

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    1. jan, I'm glad this was timely for you. That's a lovely prayer. Your reference to 1,000 times reminds me of a wonderful story. A nun came up to Father Keating and complained that she had to remind herself to refocus on God 1,000 times when she was praying. He replied, "That's wonderful! That's 1,000 times you were connected to God!" Thanks for your comment.

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  13. I love the Course's permission to simply move away from thoughts that don't serve me well. As one who is typically hard on herself, I'm learning to gently and gracefully let go of those harmful ideas without judgement or self-retribution. You're right, these sorts of realizations come much easier when we I sit securely in the present.

    Thanks for the beautiful reminder!

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    1. Beth, Those self recriminations can be deadly! Many of us have a tendency to do that. I think that's why I am drawn to the gentleness of the Course. Thanks for your comment.

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  14. Galen,
    This is such a good reminder. Years ago I was huge follower of John Randolph Price - he wrote books like "The Super-Beings" and "A Spiritual Philosophy for The New World." Anyway, one of his "tapes" that I purchased was called, "The 30 Day Non-Human Experiment." During that 30 days we were to keep our thoughts "above" the level of human emotions that pulled us down into the depths of shame, blame, disappointment, etc.

    What an eye opening 30 days it was for me. I finally 'got it.' I realized how I had been keeping myself imprisoned by the thoughts I chose to entertain. Now, I'm not saying I "never" go there anymore but, I've improved a heck of a lot! I can never hear this message enough. Thank you for the big old reminder!
    xoxo,
    Angela

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    1. Angela, I'm not familiar with his work, but that 30 day experiment sounds very interesting! Thanks for sharing the information and your experience with it.

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  15. I have been busy this new year changing my habits - I am finding this a profound exercise in changing my thinking also. One of the most amazing changes is that I do not hop out of bed and do my walk right away. I have been experimenting with feeding the pup and letting him out and then curling back into bed. At first I felt guilty as there was so much to get done. Now I feel like that cozy feeling under the covers is the best moment to set my thinking for the day - I think your moose picture will come to mind too - I say a little prayer of gratitude and have given up many of my rituals of so many years. Yes we are in charge of our thinking and our will - I enjoyed how you shared this concept with you creative story telling. Thank you

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    1. Patricia, Thanks for your kind words and for sharing how you are making this work in your own life. I appreciate your comment.

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  16. Wow, I loved the wisdom in this one. I think it is a great thought or mantra to "Step aways from the thoughts" that bring us down instead of building us up. Thank you for this one; I need it just today.
    Blessings and hugs!

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    1. LeAnn, I think most of us need a mantra like this most every day. I know I do! Thanks for commenting.

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  17. Hi Galen,

    Ah, I so needed to read this post! My mind has been a bit hectic this morning, mainly due to work and I've been worrying about things I can't control.

    Your post has helped me activate more mindfulness and as you say "step away from the thought".

    Thanks, Galen.

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    1. Hiten, I'm so glad this was helpful. Thanks for commenting.

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  18. What a simple and compelling message on "step away from the thought, step away from the thought". It is certainly a very useful tip!! Thanks for sharing it!

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    1. Evelyn, My pleasure! Thanks for commenting.

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  19. Galen,

    I just recorded your quote on the first page of my journal. It will serve as a reminder for me to leave negative thoughts where they are written. My tendency is to dwell which requires energy that could be devoted to healthy pursuits.

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    1. Suzanne, I share your tendency to dwell. I spent my whole shower this morning ruminating over something that really served no purpose. I kept reminding myself to step away. Thanks for commenting.

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  20. I so incredibly needed to read this post today. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom.

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    1. Myrna, I'm so pleased this was helpful. Thanks for your comment.

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  21. Hi Galen

    How easy it is to get sucked up in regrets and what if onlys, but it does not serve us well. We can't go back and fix any of it. I do catch myself with a bit of remorse from time to time and then think I am is so deep I cannot turn back and I can't fix what's wrong. Just live for today in the here and now, the wolves are off my back for now. If they stay off long enough I will have time to correct what I need to. Today is fine! Much easier than worrying about everything and never accomplishing anything.

    Mary

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    1. Mary, So true. How much time to we waste agonizing over things that are long beyond our control? Today is all we have. Thanks for your comment.

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  22. I totally love this.....and it's going to stay in my brain today...step away from the car...don't step away from God...Galen Pearl....thank you thank you thank you for this encouragement. :)

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    1. Nikki, My pleasure. Thanks for commenting.

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  23. AMEN! WOW, I love that... "Step away from that thought." Great REMINDER.

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    1. Farfalla, Thanks for the enthusiastic comment!

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  24. This is awesome. I have never thought about stepping away with I get into thinking about past mistake or things that others have done to me that I feel were less than perfect.

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    1. Cynthia, Now that I have the image in my head, it has come in very handy many times! Thanks for your comment.

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