How I freed myself from “What If” thinking!

Filed in Consciousness, Thoughts by on March 19, 2013 3 Comments
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Many people that find themselves on a path leading to enlightenment are familiar with suffering. Suffering can come in many shapes and sizes. For some, a childhood trauma, abuse, loss of a loved one or other such event can cause them to become a prisoner within their own thinking. For others, it is a more subtle form of suffering that starts in the mind, builds slowly over time, and eventually turns into anxiety and/or depression. I am very familiar with this type of thinking.

“What if?”

I personally suffered from anxiety and depression for most of my life. At the heart of my fear was one simple thought… “What if?” Who could have imagined that two little words could have done so much damage? My life was ruled by “what if” thinking.

“What if I said or did something that was embarrassing?”

“What if someone didn’t like me?”

“What if I failed?”

I became hyper sensitive to the idea of how others saw me and what might go wrong in my life. I lived in a perpetual state of unconscious, rambling, uncontrollable thinking. My mind would race all the time about possible negative outcomes. I couldn’t sleep at night because my thoughts would keep me up, worrying about things that might happen. I suffered with negative thinking in social situations and at work also. I would sit in meetings at work, thinking…

“What if I’m asked a question and I don’t know the answer?”

“What if I say something and everyone thinks it’s dumb?”

“What if they all think I’m not as smart as they are?”

I would become so lost in though, I would have no idea what was being said in the meeting! The realization that I was not paying attention only resulted in more negative thoughts…

“What if someone asks me what they just said?”

“What if everyone knows I’m not paying attention?”

“What if I’m asked a question and can’t answer it because I’m not listening?”

Eventually, this thinking induced a panic within me that became physical. At this point, my bodies fight or flight response would kick-in. My heart would start to race, my face would become flush, my hands would sweat and I would start to feel like I wanted to run out of the room. This type of stress can take a serious toll on your body, as well as your mind.

I suffered with this type of negative, “what if” thinking for almost 30 years. I withdrew from friends and family, backed away from job opportunities and co-workers, and even used alcohol to help mask the thoughts and inner pain I was suffering from. I had given up hope that I would ever be “normal” and convinced myself that I was going to live this way for the rest of my life.

My life was about to change

I finally found freedom from my “what if” thinking through a very unexpected place, my own mind. Because it was within my own mind I was trapped, it was only through a better understanding of the roll my mind played in my life that I would find freedom. This understanding was about to be given to me through what I would have called coincidence at the time. I now know this as synchronicity.

It all started when my friend posted a simple Jim Carrey video on Facebook. This is the video.

Being a fan of Jim Carrey, I watched the video and became curious whom it was he was speaking about. I did a little research and discovered the person he was introducing was Eckhart Tolle. Further research led me to his book, “The Power of Now.” I was never much of a reader, but I decided to purchase the book and read it.

It was in the pages of this book where I was introduced to a simple, yet powerful idea… you are not your thoughts, but the watcher of them.

My first thought was, “Wait, what? I’m the watcher of my thoughts? What the hell does that mean?” I always thought that my thoughts were simply an audio track in my head of what my brain was doing… like I was narrating my own life back to myself? But hey, what did I know?

As I continued to read this book I decided to try something… I was going to simply observe everything I was doing with absolute focus, including my thoughts. I lied down in my bed that night and simply focused on everything I could. I used all my senses available to me. I noticed the sheets of the bed touching my skin, the temperature of the room and how it felt on my face, the hum of the fan that was running in my room, the noises outside from the neighbor’s dog, the wind in the trees.

I also started to “feel” the sensations within my own body. I focused my thoughts on the feeling of my feet and lower legs. I noticed, when I focused my attention on that part of my body, I could feel what is best described as a tingling or buzzing there. The more I focused on this feeling, the stronger it became.

As I continued this process I suddenly realized something… I wasn’t thinking at all?! No thoughts where going through my mind! The voice that had been narrating my entire life back to me, that voice that I didn’t seem to be able to control, was suddenly silent. Of course, it was silent only until I became aware it was silent. At the very moment I placed my awareness on my thinking, I was suddenly thinking again. But now, something was different. I wasn’t just thinking, I was now aware I was thinking… and then it happened! Suddenly, I was “watching my thoughts.” I had found that place where I could feel the experience of being aware of my thoughts, without being my thoughts.

It was in that moment of awareness, for the first time, I experienced the “present moment.” The very moment I existed in time and space. I was aware that I was aware, not through thought but through feeling. I suddenly became conscious! This was the very moment I woke up to the idea that I am not my thoughts, my actions, my mistakes, my sins, my fears, or even my physical body. All of these things are part of the experience I am aware of, but they are not who I am… I am the awareness, the consciousness.

The strangest part of it all was how familiar it felt. As if I hadn’t learned something new, but rather remembered something I had forgotten!

I suddenly understood what being the “watcher of my thoughts” meant. It meant actually being awareness… being consciousness. I was now watching everything, including how my mind responded to the physical world around me. I am not my thoughts… I am the awareness of my thoughts. I am the one that is watching them. I am not the physical form but the non-physical consciousness.

My thoughts were tied into the physical world. Past experiences and future possibilities made up all of my thoughts. But when I was aware, I wasn’t thinking. I was experiencing just “being.” This allowed me to view my thoughts as the observer. This crystal clear understanding of not being the physical form, but the non-physical formless, suddenly freed me from my thoughts.

Life after awakening

For months after this awakening I walked around in a state of wonder. I saw things differently than I ever had before. I suddenly felt freer than I had ever imagined I could feel. I saw the world as a place to experience, not a place to fear or worry about. I no longer saw everything through my minds eye, but through awareness. The universe became a wondrous place, filled with the most amazing people and creatures.

I also became aware of how much our current world and people do not understand this way of being. Almost everything we are taught pushes us to conform to a way that keeps us prisoner to our thoughts and our ego. The world focuses on the physical because it believes that is all there is. We feel we are physical being who can only find happiness through other physical means. We use money, power, fame, food, drink, drugs, relationships and other physical elements to try and create happiness for ourselves. But once we start to look inside, we realize that the outer world is simply a reflection of what we feel inside. We create our reality through our feelings, not the other way around.

By obtaining a state of awareness, and living in the present moment, it is far easier to realize this truth about our lives. That truth is that we are here to play, to live, to love and to experience all that life has to offer. The universe is not here to help or to hurt, it is here to serve us as we ask to be served. We’ve simply forgotten how to ask for what we want.

I still occasionally have thoughts of “what if” that through my mind… what if more people were able to connect with their inner consciousness? What if the world became free of people trying to find their happiness through possessions? What if we all learned to be happy and love each other? What if?


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Comments (3)

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  1. Feel free to leave any comments… I welcome all feedback. 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    This sounds like mindfulness…

  3. Lan says:

    It’s appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be
    happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you some
    interesting things or suggestions. Maybe you could
    write next articles referring to this article. I desire to read more things about it!

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