Our thoughts rule our lives, and we need to cultivate mindfulness around our thoughts so that we can be truly open and present in our lives. (Learn more about being present in 6 Techniques to Staying Present.) Mindfulness of thought means paying close attention to our thoughts with a quality of openness and nonjudgment. If we can attend to our thoughts with the energy of this loving attention, we’ll begin to see our thoughts for what they are. They’re just thoughts, and they come and go like clouds in the bright, blue sky.
When we pay attention to our thoughts, we identify with them less and less. The ego and the personality are so deeply attached to all the thoughts that make up our self-identity. But this is mere superficial identity. Our identity – the one that’s always loving and deeply connected to everything and everyone – is unchanging. It lies way below the surface of all those fleeting thoughts.
By cultivating mindfulness of thought, we get to witness the thoughts. And the more we witness these thoughts, the more we connect with this unchanging essence of who we are. It’s like anything else: practice is essential. We can practice paying attention to our thoughts in every moment. We can also formally sit down and do this on a meditation cushion. (Learn more in Turning the Mind 'Off' for Meditation.) But we don’t have to do it solely during a meditation practice. We can pay attention to our thoughts when we’re doing yoga, when we’re taking a solitary walk in nature, when we’re in line at the grocery store, or when we’re in conversation with a loved one.
In fact, conversations are a really good way to pay attention to your thoughts. Notice how often you’re not even listening to the other person, but thinking about what you want to say next. This is a great time to pay attention to your thoughts, as you want to be as present as you possibly can with all the people in your life. Mindfulness of thought is a deeply profound art that can and will change your life for the better if you let it.