Here’s an amazing thing you can do to explore and improve your own mind. Sit comfortably in a relaxed position. With each in-breath say, “I take as given that…” and then during your relaxed out-breath, think of and say something positive to finish the sentence. Don’t judge it, just say it.
After several of these, I became anxious that the practice was unsustainable, that I would run out of new positive things to say, and therefore I would not be able to breathe out. (In this APT exercise you can’t say anything that you’ve already said before in the same sitting.)
To my surprise, I was able to “let go” mentally, to observe the automatic formation of new postive thoughts. The exciting thing was, I wasn’t doing anything, the thoughts appeared effortlessly and I lost all concern that they would dry up. I became, for several enjoyable minutes, the freed observer.
Breathing is interesting because it typlically happens automatically, but we can also control it. Thoughts work the same way. Just as I can let go and let my body “breathe itself,” I can let go and let my positive thoughts think themselves.
Try APT yourself. If you have a smart phone or a tape recorder, record what you say, completed without thinking about what you’re going to say next.
Breathe in, saying in your head, “I take it as given that …”
Then relax and breathe out saying the first thing each time that pops out. Set the intention that the statements are positive. Accept as a given that they will be.
Practice until you can do this for five minutes straight. If you like, share in a comment automatic thoughts that surprised you.
A quick sample of my spontaneous APTs:
- I will have breakfast
- I am comfortable
- Love is real
- I can hear things
- I am at peace
- We need each other
- I am not the thinker
- My thoughts help me
- I can let go
- Everything exists
One thing we have as human beings that our Artificial Intelligence lacks at this point is a massive database of common sense true statements that forms our world view, the context in which we perceive. We developed this in part as we played when we were young. APT meditation simply taps into that huge cache of truth.
Some people get very excited about this ability we have to observe our thoughts and they believe they are “channeling” other beings in this state, but automatic thinking is just a natural thing everyone does. The “channelers” are just people who don’t recognize themselves in the mirror.
No, you aren’t crazy. Psychologists who call any type of dissociation or hearing voices a form of mental illness are in denial that we all have the ability to disconnect from and to observe our own thoughts. If you get stuck there it can be a problem, sure, but the “illness” label and resulting concern is often just a misperception of normal reality.
Accept that all human thoughts happen mostly automatically, that you are not the thinker, that the human mind just does this. Being able to separate from your thoughts doesn’t mean you are getting the information from somewhere else, that you are crazy, that you are a powerful mystical guru, or that aliens or governments are thought controlling you.
The purpose of this APT exercise is that whether not we can create a new positive reality external to ourselves, tapping automatic positive thoughts certainly creates a positive internal experience.
Imagine what would happen if this flow of spontaneous positive thoughts became your new habit, your new contextual reality. I believe meditation with APT can be a powerful remedy for depression and anxiety.