By Master Eric Sbarge
Years ago I heard a psychology report that said that the average person has roughly 60,000 thoughts per day, and all but a few of those thoughts are the same thoughts as the day before. So if that report was right, it seems we think a lot but we aren’t particularly original thinkers.
Our thoughts fall into a handful of repeating categories, which are deeply imbedded in our habits.
For example, I’m sure you’ve noticed that some of your Facebook and social media friends always post about the same things, and when you meet these friends in person (if such a thing still happens) they again talk about the exact same things.
I’ve noticed for example that I have several Facebook friends that seem mostly to post pictures of what they’re about to eat, or wish they were about to eat. Clearly, they think about food a lot. I remember way back in high school I had a friend whose whole family were big eaters. They went on a vacation to Las Vegas, and when they returned and I asked them how their vacation was, they proceeded to tell me about every meal at every restaurant they’d gone to. That was all they seemed to remember about the trip, or at least all they thought it worth talking about.
Or others on social media always rail about politics in the hopes of either converting or annoying us. Whether conservative or liberal, you pretty much know what these people’s next post will be about. It makes you glad not to have to talk to them in person.
Still others are one-trick ponies when it comes to their activities: The martial artist who shows you pictures of yet another broken brick (or hand); the yogi who has become so flexible he can take selfies of every pose without having to switch the camera to selfie mode (he can and he does show you every pose possible); the new parents who share every wonder of their baby’s burping or falling down or getting up again.
These kinds of posts are harmless, and I use them only as examples of our habit of repetitive thought. What isn’t so harmless, to ourselves or to others, is when our repetitive thoughts are hurtful or dangerous.
When our thoughts are continually self-loathing, or demeaning towards others, or hostile and angry, or intolerant, or arrogant and boastful – then it makes sense to change these thoughts. The best way to change our thought habits is by learning to first observe and monitor them through meditation, and second through cultivating mindfulness and awareness throughout the day.
The opportunities to observe and change our thoughts are plenty – 60,000 times a day to be exact. So go ahead, think about babies or politics or yoga poses or whatever you like all day, but think about them with thoughts of joy, love, compassion, peace and humor and we’ll all benefit from your thoughtful habits.
(NOTE: If I’ve repeated this topic here many times before, my sincere apologies.)
“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.”