In my practice I’ve discovered that I have a tremendous amount of self critical and very negative intrusive thoughts. In making this discovery I have applied many techniques, working to reprogram my unconscious thinking patterns to begin dissolving those negative self beliefs. This is vitally important as you can’t really be free of suffering if you’re carrying the baggage that says you are somehow broken, lacking, insufficient, and never enough. In this journey I've found three primary techniques that have worked wonders for me and I’d love to share them with you, so you can also no longer be trapped by negative thoughts. I've been practicing meditation for twenty years and these are, for me, the best tools I've discovered to actually get rid of the patterns that keep the cycle of self hate intact.
Before I give you the technique it's important to address a couple things. First, I approach healing from a Yogic perspective. Yoga, as you may already know, is not a religion. It is a philosophical system designed to rid you of the latent impressions that cause you to relive your past trauma and live in suffering. In Yogic thought, you are simply awareness in which everything is arising. Everything else is based on the patterning of our consciousness - it is not true. The only truth is that you are pure awareness, the rest is the material you have to process to realize this truth. You are not good or bad. You are not broken, flawed, lacking, incomplete, disconnected, or trapped. Everything you need is already inside you. You are a perfect manifestation of human experience. The work exists to reveal this truth to you.
Second, adhering to the external vows allows you to check and make sure you aren't causing harm to the world around you. These are: non-harming, speaking the truth, non-stealing, non-hoarding, and not consuming more than what is needed. The practices of mindfulness lead you down a similar path of taking personal responsibility for how we interact with the world. This part is actually pretty crucial as we need to be able to say we have done the best we can in order for the work to function properly. If we are going around intentionally harming people we can't say that we are doing our best (we're being selfish and we will feel bad because of our recklessness).
Now that we have established the above, let’s talk about the techniques. The first thing that has worked wonders for me is chanting. This is successful, in part because our minds are constantly working. The brain is an analytical engine designed to take in information and process it. We process that information based on patterns we developed unconsciously. These patterns may have served us during some point in our lives but are usually riddled with unskilled action which causes continuous suffering. Chanting replaces the tapes that typically play in the subconscious mind. It is a practice, and the more you do it the more effect it has. Just like learning to play the piano, the more you do it the faster you learn. You can chant anything but I really like the following:
I have a body, but I am not my body. I can see and feel my body, and what can be seen and felt is not the true Seer. My body may be tired or excited, sick or healthy, heavy or light, but that is not all that I am. I have a body, but I am not my body.
I have emotions, but I am not my emotions. I can feel and sense my emotions, and what can be felt and sensed is not the true Feeler. Emotions pass through me, but they do not affect my true selfI. I have emotions but I am not emotions.
I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts. I can know and intuit my thoughts, and what can be known is not the true Knower. Thoughts come to me and thoughts leave me, but they do not affect my true self. I have thoughts but I am not my thoughts.
This is really long and isn't great for when you're walking around. You could write it on the mirror in your bathroom and recite it three to five times every morning before getting ready for the day. Throughout the day when I tune in and notice my thoughts I'll recite I have a body but I am not my body. I have thoughts but I am not my thoughts, I have emotions but I am not my emotions. You can do any series of words you'd like as long as they are positive. I know that this can come across as really cheesy but, if you do this regularly, what happens is when you tune into your thoughts they are no longer your unconscious patterns but instead the thoughts become the chant. I'd rather tune in and hear “I'm not bad” than “I’m broken.” This doesn't process anything but is a powerful tool to start reprogramming the unconscious mind.
The second technique is designed to digest and release emotions:
Either notice as an emotion materializes or call forth an emotion (it's most powerful when you catch the emotion).
Sit with the emotion without judgment and feel where it is in the body, what is its temperature, consistency, etc. Sit until the emotion passes - which takes 90 seconds according to modern neuroscience (everything else is you attaching a narrative to your emotion)
Ask yourself if the emotion is tied to a self-limiting belief (lacking, flawed, less than, incomplete, trapped, etc...)
Inquire if the limiting belief is the truth. This is where a grounding in the philosophy I laid out is important. The answer is always 100% no! You are not any of those misperceptions. They are simply a product of your lived experiences, the projections of others, and your own ego.
Forgive yourself for buying into the limiting belief and affirm that you are whole and complete
Send the residual energy into the ground and sit quietly until you feel its time to move on.
The third technique is used to polarize your negative thinking. This one is equally effective as a formal practice or if you do it in the moment that an emotion materializes:
Call forth an emotion or self critical thought
Sit with your point of focus and experience how it arises in your body. Notice if the thought creates an energetic shift, a temperature change, and where you feel it. Sit for about 90 seconds
Place the negative thought/emotion in your right hand palm turned upwards and feel the emotion in your hand.
Call forth the opposite thought or emotion (if you are working on thinking you're not worthy then call forth a felt sense of worthiness).
Sit with the opposite thought or emotion the same way you did with the negative one. Stay with it for about 90 seconds
Place your positive thought in your left hand palm facing up. Feel what it's like to hold it in your hand
Bring the pinky sides of your hands together in front of your chest and quickly go back and forth between left and right hands. Doing this for about 90 seconds.
When the time feels right bring your palms together allowing the energies to come together and neutralize.
Affirm that you are whole and complete, that you have everything you need inside you.
Sit quietly until it feels like it's time to move on.
These two techniques have changed everything about how I perceive myself and my relationship to the world around me. It is the most profound tool I've encountered for getting rid of my negative thoughts. In fact, it wasn't until I started doing this practice that I was actually able to start meditating and really engaging with mindfulness. These tools took the power my negative thoughts had away from them. Now when one arises I typically have a little chuckle because I know it's not the truth!