• You come to realise that thoughts come and go of their own accord; that you are not your thoughts. You can watch as they appear in your mind, seemingly from thin air, and watch again as they disappear, like a soap bubble bursting. You come to the profound understanding that thoughts and feelings (including negative ones) are transient. They come and they go, and ultimately, you have a choice about whether to act on them or not. (Location 191)
  • when you start to feel a little sad, anxious, or irritable it’s not the mood that does the damage but how you react to it. • the effort of trying to free yourself from a bad mood or bout of unhappiness – of working out why you’re unhappy and what you can do about it – often makes things worse. It’s like being trapped in quicksand – the more you struggle to be free, the deeper you sink. (Location 242)
  • When you begin to feel a little unhappy, it’s natural to try and think your way out of the problem of being unhappy. You try to establish what is making you unhappy and then find a solution. In the process, you can easily dredge up past regrets and conjure up future worries. This further lowers your mood. (Location 247)
  • The mind is constantly trawling through memories to find those that echo our current emotional state. For example, if you feel threatened, the mind instantly digs up memories of when you felt endangered in the past, so that you can spot similarities and find a way of escaping. It happens in an instant, before you’re even aware of it. (Location 254)
  • The same is true with unhappiness, anxiety and stress. It is normal to feel a little unhappy from time to time, but sometimes a few sad thoughts can end up triggering a cascade of unhappy memories, negative emotions and harsh judgments. Before long, hours or even days can be coloured by negative self-critical thoughts such as, What’s wrong with me? My life is a mess. What will happen when they discover how useless I really am? Such self-attacking thoughts are incredibly powerful, and once they gather momentum they are almost impossible to stop. (Location 258)
  • Similarly, our mood can act as an internal context that is every bit as powerful as a visit to an old holiday destination or the sound of a favourite tune. A flicker of sadness, frustration or anxiety can bring back unsettling memories, whether you want them or not. Soon you can be lost in gloomy thoughts and negative emotions. And often you don’t know where they came from – they just appeared, seemingly from thin air. You can become bad tempered, irritable or sad without really knowing why. You’re left wondering, Why am I in a bad mood? Or, Why do I feel so sad and tired today? (Location 273)
  • The spirit in which you do something is often as important as the act itself. Think about the significance of this for a moment. If you do something in a negative or critical way, if you over-think or worry or carry out a task through gritted teeth, then you will activate your mind’s aversion system. This will narrow the focus of your life. You will become like a mouse with an owl complex: more anxious, less flexible, less creative. If, however, you do exactly the same thing in an open-hearted, welcoming manner, you thereby activate the mind’s ‘approach’ system: (Location 1647)
  • And nothing activates the mind’s avoidance system (and depresses the approach system) quite like the feeling of being trapped. This sense of being trapped is also central to extreme feelings of exhaustion and helplessness. Many people who work too hard, or for too long, end up being trapped by their own perfectionism and sense of responsibility – they feel, deep down, that there is ‘no escape’. It might be that, some time in the past, they had to prove something to themselves or to others because they felt bullied into it at home or at school, but over the years this has turned into a script that keeps them locked into old habits. This bullying script may once have helped them get what they wanted in life, but now it simply exhausts them. In this way, it’s all too easy to cede all the power to the ‘self-attacking’ aspect of yourself, and over time, you can come to feel, deep down, that the only possible response is to submit to the pressure. Trapped, your world seems to present fewer and fewer alternatives for action, whatever the reality. The result is long-term ‘demobilisation’. Your playfulness becomes paved over with concrete. (Location 1653)
  • Although these negative spirals are incredibly powerful, you can begin to dissipate them just by becoming aware of them. The simple act of turning towards and observing them, helps to dissolve such patterns because they are maintained by the mind’s Doing mode (which has volunteered to help, even though it’s precisely the wrong tool for the job). The Doing mode entangles you even more in your own ideas of freedom, adding a sense of deep aversion and the demand that things should be different from how they are. So you become caught in a fantasy of freedom and miss the actuality of freedom available to you. (Location 1666)
  • John was on his way to school. He was worried about the maths lesson. He was not sure he could control the class again today. It was not part of a janitor’s duty.1 (Location 1938)
  • The way we interpret the world makes a huge difference to how we react. This is sometimes called the ABC model of emotions. The ‘A’ represents the situation itself – what a video camera would record. The ‘B’ is the interpretation given to the scene; the running story we create out of the situation, which often flows just beneath the surface of awareness but is taken as fact. The ‘C’ is our reactions: our emotions, body sensations and our impulses to act in various ways. Often, we see the ‘A’ and ‘C’ quite clearly, but we are not aware of the ‘B’. We think that the situation itself aroused our feelings and emotions when, in fact, it was our interpretation of the scene that did this. It’s as if the world were a silent film on which we write our own commentary. But the commentary, with its explanations of what is going on, happens so fast that we take it to be part of the film. It can become progressively more difficult to separate the ‘real’ facts of a situation from its interpretation. (Location 1954)
  • Take self-criticism as an example: when we are feeling stressed or vulnerable, we only hear the inner critic and not the quieter voice of compassion. If we do hear an alternative to the unsettling thoughts, we probably won’t believe the answers because the emotional punch behind the thoughts is so powerful that it overwhelms all of our logic. If we dismiss our thoughts as ‘nonsense’ or tell ourselves to ‘get a grip’ or to ‘pull yourself together’ then this further lowers our morale, leaving us wide open to further feelings of weakness and inadequacy. To make matters even worse, every time the tape of self-criticism begins to roll, we immediately start embellishing the story. We begin trawling our minds for supporting evidence and ignore everything to the contrary. Is it any wonder then, that the rumour mill in our minds can cause us so much unnecessary suffering? Is it so surprising that all of the ways in which we try and quench those rumours only end up making things far, far worse? Instead of confronting the mind’s rumour mill with logic and ‘positive thinking’, it makes far more sense to step outside the endless cycle and just watch the thoughts unfold in all their fevered beauty. But this can be difficult. If you look closely at the ‘rumours’ that start washing around the mind when you feel stressed, you’ll see how much a part of you they really appear to be. (Location 1985)