Bedtime. Reading. Tired. Alone. Contemplative... Wondering if the person I was thinking of at this moment could read what was on my mind if they were looking at me.
How accurately do our thoughts register on our faces? No matter what we say we are thinking, no one can truly know what's going on in our heads but us. We can say one thing and think another, or we can express our thoughts openly, with no pretense, and still be misunderstood.
Whatever we decide to do with our thoughts, ultimately, they belong to us, and us alone. We choose who to share them with and who to conceal them from. Be it for love, intimacy, trust, distrust, insecurity, or fear of reproach, we all decide which thoughts we reveal to others and which ones we keep to ourselves.
Most of our thoughts are manageable and accepted by us as true reflections of how we feel. Most thoughts we don't fight and instead welcome and encourage.
But those "priceless" ones that we don't share with anyone - those which a penny nor a fortune could buy - are the ones we have to be especially mindful of, as they have the most potential to do harm to us and to our relationships. Kept locked inside, but let lose in our minds, these thoughts can take control; and, if left unchecked, they can morph into beliefs or ideas that don't even represent what we truly feel in our hearts. They can seize command of our balanced mind and leave it unbalanced and struggling to find its equilibrium amidst all the convolution.
An exaggeration? Possibly. But it is no exaggeration that when we allow our thoughts to become runaway trains, steering our actions and behaviors down the wrong path, they can adversely affect our overall health and wellbeing - taking our peace, our equanimity, and our balance along for the ride. They can disrupt our daily lives, color how we see and relate to the world, and skew how we see and relate to others.
It is liberating to express thoughts openly without shame, apprehension or constraint. Yet, so often we don't feel free to do this. Why do we feel we must hold some of them in? Is it for fear of judgment, rejection, or criticism? Is it insecurity or self-consciousness? I read something the other day - I don't know who I'm quoting because it wasn't credited - but it went as follows: "I wish people could just say how they feel like 'Hey I really don't like when you do that to me' or 'Hey I'm in love with you' or 'Hi I really miss you and I think about you all the time' without sounding desperate. Why can't everyone be painfully honest and just save people the trouble."
It's true. Sometimes we aren't honest about our feelings to others, let alone to ourselves. Sometimes our actions don't accurately reflect the feelings and thoughts that initiated them in the first place. What we end up doing can sometimes seem desperate, so misguided by a half-baked, compulsive thought created in an unstable frame of mind, that we immediately regret the behavior. Sometimes we are so in need of connection that we find the path of least resistance to get the connection we seek, and then fail at effectively making that very connection we wanted after all.
A clear mind is required to fully process our thoughts and recognize what it is we ultimately want; and in turn, to then act accordingly with clarity and purpose. Not settling for what we can get on the fly, without any thoughtful intention, is challenging. It requires restraint and discipline to stay focused on our true intent, our real needs, our deepest desires.
And for many, it's finding and maintaining that clear mind that may be the biggest challenge of all. We all find our peace and happiness in our own ways, and some of us are better at it than others.
But whatever you do to maintain your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health and wellbeing, just remember this one simple truth:
Thoughts are powerful. Use them wisely. Be mindful of the ones that serve you, and the ones that don't.