93: How To Think


What’s the thing that: a) humans do constantly, b) shapes our life in resounding ways, and c) we’re never taught how to do? –– think. Our thoughts can be assets or liabilities in our life, and laura shares 5 tips in this episode to help all of us think a little better.



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Audio: How to Make Love. Now, is that from recipe or from scratch? This is How to Make Love. Wow! Oh gosh! Ooh! Oh my God! A little to the left and faster. A show that tests the edges of what love is. Worthiness, empathy, beauty, sex positive. The borders it can cross how we do integrity in all of our relationships and its hidden costs and shadows. In a world where we enter other people, where we build walls, we just tear down walls. Fuck finding it or folding into it, our future depends on making it.

laura: Hey, there, friends. Welcome back to a podcast all about how to grow your courage and love and justice and liberation muscles. I'm Laura, and I'm super glad you're here. Woo, y'all, Happy New Year. I know it's been a minute since our last episode. Thank you for your patience. I just got back from my annual solo trek into the Appalachian Mountains that I do every year for the past couple of years for my birthday. I take myself out trout fishing, and I meditate, and I read, and I hike, and I think, and I grieve, and I acknowledge, and I let go. Now I'm back and I'm excited to be back in this podcast with you all.
Exciting stuff is on the horizon. We're going to be bringing back guests this season. We've got some interviews lined up next week. It's going to be awesome. We're going to be getting into a lot of content around healing and the skills of healing this season. Lots of juicy stuff. But I want to start today with a topic that, I don't know, it's so pervasive that we may not even know that we need the topic. It's the thing we do more than anything else as humans. I can say confidently in my work as a death doula and as a coach, this is the thing that can bring peace or misery. It can build dreams or it can kill them. It can heal relationships or tear them apart. It can heal wounds or inflame them.
It can build connection or destroy it. It can help someone feel a sense of a life well lived or a life full of regret. For such an important power, you'd think we'd be taught how to do this well, but we never are. The topic I want to broach today is how to think your thoughts. Your thoughts they have the power to do or not to do all the things that I just mentioned. Outside of the systems functioning all around us and all the external forces and circumstances at play that we don't have any control over, our thoughts are likely the single most impactful and powerful part of our life, the place where we do have a certain sense of power that we're not often taught that we have, truly.
We don't have control over those external forces or the circumstances that happen in our lives or in the world, but we do have control over what meaning we ascribe to those things. We have control over what we think. The problem is we think a lot. The human brain on average thinks 50,000 thoughts a day, almost 50 thoughts per minute. But we're not conscious of most of those thoughts. A lot of us are walking around believing and reacting to and getting invested in thoughts that we aren't even conscious that we're thinking. Yikes! It's basically the same thing, at least metaphorically, as being asleep at the wheel and operating the car.
That should scare us. We don't get a human education around how to manage our mind, let alone how to see our thoughts. We're never taught which thoughts are crap and how to toss them out and how not to pay attention to them. We're not taught how to create new thoughts if the ones that we're thinking aren't serving us. We're not taught that we can change our thoughts over and over and over again. We're not even taught to see our thoughts, let alone change them or create them or toss them out or heal them or so on. Of course, as much as each of us once at some level to believe that we exist outside of the systems of oppression that's around us, the sad thing is our brain really doesn't.
Your soul might or your spirit might or your energy, but our brain was trained by those systems. It was raised by them. It was taught to think by them. When we aren't conscious of what we're thinking, we can bet that our brain is going to generate thoughts using the programming it's learned and sees enacted in the world every day. As we look around at so much of the suffering in the world and the violence, we know that most of that programming isn't stuff we want to ingest. Let me just share a few thoughts about thoughts, a few thoughts in the hopes of helping you see more of your own thoughts.
The more conscious we are of our thoughts, the more power we have to make conscious choices versus having our brain and its unconscious thoughts determine or limit our life. And yet that's what's happening for so many of us. I want us all to have power and consent when it comes to our thoughts versus having those thoughts dictate or limit our lives. I'm going to share five things about thoughts and how to think better, how to make your thoughts an asset in your life or at least more of an asset rather than a liability to your happiness or your well-being or your healing.
And as always, if you have questions about any of this, or you want coaching off or on the podcast, you can reach out to me through my website. But here we go, five tips or five thoughts about thoughts about how to think. First, here's how it works. A thought is the meaning you give something using a sentence in your mind. Interestingly, your thoughts create your feelings, not the other way around. Feelings are energetic responses in your body to the thoughts that you have in your head. Sometimes we think our feelings are responses to what we see in the world, and that's not quite true.
We see something in the world, we form a thought about it, which is to say we give some sort of meaning to what we've seen, and then that meaning or that thought creates an energetic response in our body. That's first. I want you to know that a thought is a meaning using a sentence in your brain that you ascribe to something and that your thoughts create your feelings. Second, you are constantly determining what things mean even when you don't know you are. The meaning you give something can be literally anything. Two folks might see the same thing and have very different thoughts and meanings they ascribe to it, and thus very different feelings about how they feel about it.
Politics is a place to look for like glaringly obvious examples of how this works, but it doesn't have to be so charged. I see a fishing pole, for example, and I think, yay, I love to fish and I feel a sense of excitement. My mom sees a fishing pole and she thinks, oh my god, this is the most boring thing ever, and she feels a sense of dread. From the mundane to the very important, we're all making meaning of what we see. Our different identities and lived experiences and wounds and traumas and perspectives and vantage points and where we're from and all sorts of things influence the meaning that we give to something, influence the thoughts that we choose to think in response to things.
The third thing I want us to know about thoughts. Just like we learned to listen to other people, we need to learn to listen to our thoughts. We need to learn to hear what we're thinking. Now, huge, giant, big caveat here. Listening is different than just automatically obeying. I don't want you to just automatically believe and obey the things that you think. I want you to learn to hear what you're thinking. I want you to become more mindful of what you're thinking. Remember, you think 50,000 thoughts a day. How many of those thoughts are you catching and hearing or seeing with clarity? Probably a very teeny, teeny, teeny, tiny percentage.
Remember, those thoughts are determining what you feel during the day, the meaning that you give to everything that happens in your life. One of the single most important things you can do is to get curious about your thoughts and learn to see and hear them. It's really hard to change something if you decide you want to change it without seeing it clearly. Before we can talk about changing how you think or what you think or how you feel, the first thing we all have to learn to do is to learn to observe and hear and see our thoughts. Fourth, I just want you to know you can choose to change the meaning that you ascribe to anything.
You can choose a different thought on purpose. In fact, I encourage you to do it. If you've always watched it rain and thought, "What a gloomy, yucky day," try out a new thought. Try out, "This is really beautiful," and then see, do your feelings shift at all? What's a new world like which rain is beautiful when it once was yucky? What are the new possibilities that might open up? It's kind of a silly example, but imagine a different topic, maybe really core to your life, maybe like a relationship. Perhaps there's a person that you felt wronged by. That's the meaning that you gave their action.
What if you try a different meaning? Maybe you say they did the best that they could with what they had at the time. Does that thought, when you think it on purpose, change your feelings? Does it open up new feelings or new thoughts about the person? The point isn't to change all the things we think necessarily. Remember, you're human living a human experience, and the human experience is always going to involve good and bad, pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow. We can't change that and we shouldn't try to. But the point is to realize or at least question the ways you've potentially been limiting your life through the thoughts you've been thinking.
If and when you want or when you're ready to see that while we have no control over the external circumstances that happen in the world, we do have the power to choose what we want those things to mean in our life. Now, no meaning is better than another. There's no right or wrong. There's no more highly evolved or less evolved. There's none of that. There's just options, and different options will cause different feelings in your body, and different feelings will generate different actions and different choices. I want to make sure I'm really clear. I'm not saying that we can just convince ourselves that legitimately awful stuff isn't legitimately awful.
Some shit is legitimately awful and unjust and horrible, and still we can both be honest about that part of the human experience or about our life, things have been painful and awful in our life and simultaneously know that we ultimately have agency, that we get to determine what power we want to give to something by determining what thought or what meaning we want to give it. When we do this consciously, we do it eyes wide, open to injustice, eyes wide open to the human experience, eyes wide open to our wholeness and our agency and our dignity and our worth, there is the potential for radical transformational healing and liberation.
And just because there's a potential for it doesn't mean you have to go and do anything about it necessarily. I just want you to know that you can if and when you choose to. Okay, y'all, the last tip I want to give around thoughts for today is this. Number five, if I could impart a superpower into all of us, it would be the skill and the practice of not automatically believing or reacting to the thoughts in our head. For most of us, because we aren't conscious of all those thoughts we're thinking, our brain generates a thought and we often just go with it. We believe it and we react to it, and it creates a whole cycle of actions and inactions and reactions.
The thought could be as straightforward as I'm hungry, which leads us to go get a snack, or it could be as insidious as, I'm not worthy, I'm not enough, I'm a failure, or maybe a thought about another person that can lead to really horrible, unjust results if believed. When we think thoughts like this and believe them or simply react to them, which means even if we don't like the thought or believe it necessarily we kind of get hooked into its narrative and we react to it as if it's true. When we don't learn to break that chain reaction, we can find ourself in pretty dark places or decisions. And that's human.
There's nothing wrong with that. But it's also heartbreaking that someone could live a life believing or reacting to the thought, I'm not enough, because they didn't get the opportunity to learn the skills to stop that chain reaction, to see that they don't have to believe that thought, and that they can choose other thoughts that serve them in more whole ways. That's heartbreaking to me. I'm going to work on magically imparting the skill and practice into all of us.
But until I learn to defy the laws of physics, I implore all of us to build the individual practices in this episode, to start to hear more and more of our thoughts and observe what we're thinking, to observe the feelings that our thoughts are generating, to choose with more intentionality what we think on purpose, and last, to learn not to react to our thoughts. Just because we think a thing doesn't mean that we should believe it or invest in it or react to it. Learning how to work with our brains, learning how to think well on purpose is critical to our own path of healing.
It's vital for taking courageous action in our life, and it's essential for connection and intimacy and relationships. All of that is a part of the work of liberation individually and collectively. My friends, I will see you again soon for more episodes. And until then, think good thoughts. Bye for now.