Letting go of unproductive thoughts

The first thing one notices when beginning to develop a meditation practice is just how unruly the mind is. We begin to notice how our thoughts are constantly running from one topic to the next. — we are thinking day and night. If we keep at a meditation practice for a while, we also start to see that each thought leaves an emotional response in the body and that all emotions are preceded by a thought.

While some thoughts can bring us joy and peace, many of our thoughts tend to be critical or negative, often leading to a lowered state of consciousness and uncomfortable feelings in the body. Often these thoughts have to do with our relationships with other people.

One method for letting go of a troubling person that keeps popping into your mind is doing a “Metta” (loving-kindness) meditation on that person.
Practicing a loving-kindness meditation is not trying to change anything or get anywhere. What it is really doing is uncovering what is always present. Love and kindness are here all the time, somewhere, everywhere.
Think of someone that you have an unresolved issue with. Think of them and mentally say to them:
“May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be at peace”

When you have done this a few times and feel like you have let go of this person, send these thoughts to yourself:
“May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be at peace”

A second method we would recommend is a system taught by Byron Katie.
In this method, you examine each thought for its truthfulness.
For example: You walk into a party and the thought comes up – “Everyone ignores me and nobody wants to talk to me”

The question to ask is: “Is this thought true? Can I really know for sure that everyone is ignoring me and nobody wants to talk to me?”

Once you can admit that at least one person might want to talk to you, you can ask yourself: “How do I feel when I have the thought that everyone is ignoring me and nobody wants to talk to me? ”

Feel free to vent here and allow yourself to feel what that thought is bringing you.

Next, ask yourself: “How would I feel without that thought?
When you can enter into this part of the inquiry, you start to feel a little freer from that thought.
Now ask yourself: “Is there any stress-free reason for holding on to this thought?”

The thoughts will come up again and each time they do it is a wonderful opportunity to free yourself again.

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