Hashem wants our hearts. Our hearts are the seat of our feelings, our minds are the home of our thoughts.
Most people feel that their thoughts and/or feelings just “happen.” They do not realize that they can decide what to think and by doing so, transform negative feelings to positive feelings.
Our thoughts precede our feelings, not the other way around. Sometimes it may seem like we just suddenly feel something, whether positive or negative, but because the process happens so quickly, we don’t realize that the thought comes first.
In order to change our emotional reality, we must first change the way we think. Learning Torah in general, and Breslov Chassidus, changes our thoughts over time. But there are conscious choices in the form of practices that you can make part of your life, and these will help you get there more quickly.
Some powerful teachings (paraphrased) from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov on thoughts:
Thoughts can literally create reality and take on a life of their own. You are where your thoughts are—you live in your head, your consciousness (Likutey Eitzos).
A person’s thoughts are in their power—completely. Negative thoughts and feelings are almost always HABIT. (Likutey Moharan 50).
A person’s entire destiny, for good or not good, depends on the thoughts in their heart. Good thoughts are the yetzer tov, bad thoughts are the yetzer hara. (Likutey Moharan 49).
The Rebbe tells us: It’s impossible for a person to think two thoughts at once. (Likutey Moharan 233, which “happens to be” today’s Kitzur LM reading for Rosh Chodesh Tammuz.)
Try and think two thoughts at the same time. During our phone discussion, we discovered through trial and error during that starting with two really opposing thoughts is best. Go ahead and try thinking a positive thought (for example, I really love my best friend) and a negative thought (for example, I can’t stand my job) for example.
Get your positive thoughts ready by starting with the following:
1. Choose a positive thought from sifrei kodesh. For example, choose a perek from Tehillim (Psalms), a prayer from the siddur, or Likutey Tefillos (#49 is one of my choices, for example), etc.
2. Choose an original positive thought. One that has helped me over the past few years as I work on being more positive about others and myself is: When I judge others and myself favorably, I feel closer to Hashem. For me, this acts as a simple reminder to practice Azamra (LM 282).
Some of the women on last night’s call already practice this and it has changed their lives dramatically. However, if you think it’s a “nice idea” but never try it, you will not see any results.
When you realize you are experiencing a negative thought or feeling (these are often habitual), grab one of the thoughts you have ready. It is best to prepare them in advance, so you can practice using them so they’ll become your new, good habit.
Some suggestions of the phone call participants: Use a chant, such as Hashem Melech, Hashem Malach, Hashem Yimloch L’Olam Vaed. Try singing a positive song (a niggun was an example given.) One participant told us she says: Hashem, Help Me. A prayer is certainly one kind of positive thought that you can use in place of a negative thought.
When do you use your positive thought? When you have negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions such as anxiety, sadness, despair, anger, jealousy, disdain or hatred, G-d forbid, and so on. This means you have to cultivate self-awareness.
In the general culture, the kind of wit and humor that are valued are mostly made up of negative thoughts, such as sarcasm, clever put-downs of other people, self-deprecating humor, and so on. We’ve raised the art of the cynical so much so that some of us believe this is admirable. Our culture has normalized negativity so much that many of us value our negativity and believe it is an inherent part of our personalities.*
The problem is, that if we are constantly thinking negative thoughts, about others or ourselves, we will be creating a dark world for ourselves.
Each person is an olam, a world, and our mind, where are thoughts are generated, is the capital. If the capital is in chaos, confusion, or darkness the whole world is affected.
Sometimes we get so used thinking negative thoughts that we don’t even realize that we are on the wrong track. How can you identify if you are experiencing negative thoughts and feelings? Fortunately, our body often gives us very real clues to help us identify what is going on inside.
Some signs you might possibly be thinking negative thoughts, which lead to negative feelings or emotions:
Rapidly blinking eyes
Forgetting to blink
Hard to swallow, lump in throat
Scowling or pursed lips
Discomfort in chest area
Difficult to take a deep breath (you notice you haven’t taken a deep breath in awhile)
Headache or Stomachache
Tears, Crying or Feeling Shut-down Emotionally
Yelling or Raising of voice
Talking too fast
Learning Breslov Chassidus will help us become more positive people who see the good in themselves and others. Like everyone else, I’m still a work in progress, but I do know that practicing the Rebbe’s directives really, really works and you will see noticeable improvements in how you feel about your life when you do so.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov gives us powerful tools that we can use heal our all our relationships – with Hashem, with other people, and with ourselves.
Please share your experiences with replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts in the comments section or by email: breslovwoman at optonline dot net.
*One caller from last night who is struggling with depression emailed me afterwards and told me she feels her friends admire her for her cutting sense of humor which is based on identifying the weaknesses in others, and that this makes her feel “hollow” inside. She said she worries that if she stops being “clever” they won’t like or value her. Together we came up with two positive, supportive thoughts that she is going to try and use whenever she identifies negative thoughts or feelings.