“Choose one thought over another every moment”

By Tamara Milliken

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another,”  William James

We are infinite choice makers, all day long — all life long. Yet we are also creatures of habit, and have a tendency to be ruled by our senses. While surrendering to habit and giving into our senses are indeed choices, they are not mindful ones. Meditation is a practice to bring mindful intention to every moment of our day; to fully participate in our own life. How? When we sit in meditation, we are advised to be still. We align our posture, anchor ourselves with our breath, choose a focus, and are aware when we loose focus and we come back, and come back, and come back. Meditation, in addition to all the other wonderful things it is about, is a practice of awareness. You know when you have an itch on your nose,  yet you choose to not scratch it. You are aware when your mind begins to drift, yet you guide it back to the practice. You feel when your foot begins to fall asleep, yet you direct your attention elsewhere.

To me, mediation is most about being present. First and foremost within your self, and from there you can be present anywhere. It is the living expression of stopping to smell the flowers. It is when you don’t miss the things in your path. Have you ever driven home from work, only to realize that you have no clear memory of just exactly how you got home? Auto- pilot, habit, lack of participation in our day kicked in. How many good things, like the happiness of children catching the bus home, or the formation of birds in the sky, or the daring squirrel who so narrowly escaped death, do we miss? Or, someone cuts you off in traffic, and without even thinking you yell, or curse, or speed up and use fingers in vulgar ways without even consciously choosing to do so. I am not saying you can’t react, even react poorly at times. What I am suggesting is that you think before you act. If you really want to express anger at someone for their lack of driving etiquette, so be it. Just don’t let your turned-off self rule your actions. When we think before we act, when we are awake in our actions, our actions mean more. We don’t have to do what our parents or grandparents or people in the movies do. Don’t let your senses or your habits drag you around. We can act as we see, feel, think is fit. Be present with yourself. Choose what you say, choose what you do, choose one thought over another every moment of your day. This is control, this is power, this is practicing awareness. This is how you bring mindful intention to your life. Be present every moment. Let meditation be more than an ‘on your cushion 20 minutes a day’ practice. Let it into your life, let it wake you up, let it bring you into the fullness life has for you.


About Tamara Milliken

Tamara Millken began practicing yoga in 2003, and teaching in 2007. She trained and is 500 hour certified through the Shambhava School of Yoga. She currently teaches Yoga for Healing, Tibetan Heart Yoga, and meditation at the Mellow Monkey Yoga Studio and the Millwood Community Center.

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  1. Tamara, I love this concept. I, wonder, though: how can we put this into daily practice? Do you have some tips on what we can do to live like this, and think this way? Maybe books your recommend?

    • I always hesitate to recommend books… Everyone’s tastes are so different.
      There are a few tools you can use, however, until stopping to tune in becomes more natural. My husband uses his mantra. He intentially practices it in the morning and at lunch time as a reminder to stay present. If you choose mantra practice be sure to choose one that feels right to you.
      Something tangible that can help is a mala, or a stone. Hold the stone in your palm or practice with your mala during morning meditation, then wear your mala or keep your stone in your pocket or on your desk or in your car as a reminder of your intention of choosing to be present.
      Setting several daily alarms as reminders to pause for just a moment is also very helpful. You get busy at work, and a little alert on your phone goes off, and you pick it up (usually annoyed), and there is your reminder!
      Breath practice is big for me. To the point I even have a tattoo that says “Just Breathe”. If getting a tattoo seems extreme perhaps using a pen and making some small yet visable mark on your arm or hand that only you will notice and understand. Then, Just Breathe! Smiling doesn’t hurt either!
      Thank you for your question.

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