（You』ve been asking for explanations about why to do the awareness-of-thought exercises after those of body and feeling only. This is not absolutely necessary, but it will help people to go deeper. As to thoughts, most people focus on content only (『what do I think?』), but not on process (『how do I think?』) nor on the phenomena accompanying thought (『how does it feel – both in my body and feeling - wise?』) If you』ve practised awareness of the body (its movements, postures and of breathing) and awareness of feeling (pleasure, pain, neutral ones in their various shades), you are more likely to notice that thinking, too, is associated with bodily and emotional repercussions. E.g., I may feel some strain or tension when thinking certain thoughts, or I hear (bodily awareness) the sound of my voice (within or without) sounding harsh or pressed when giving words to that thought; or there may be a sense of pleasure (『I』m really bright』) or a particular underlying volition of me trying to gain something, to win a point or whatever it may be. Thus, awareness of body and feeling often helps to uncover underlying aspects of thinking … generally, our thinking is much less objective than we would like to believe.）
AWARENESS OF THOUGHT
Attending closely and noticing thought
Much of our experience is an internal commentary on our experience. With the breath we are oftentalking about the breath (if we are not simply distracted from it) rather than subtly experiencingthe breath.
See if you can notice this subtle internal commentary and any subtle physical holding, and gently let them go. Just experience the breath as changing sensations with no words. If you get distracted, take the breath to the distraction.
Do the following exercises only after you feel confident with practising awareness of the body and of feelings in general.
Letting go of unhelpful narratives
Try to become aware of an unpleasant experience, (e.g. physical discomfort or mental unease.) Notice the narrative you tell yourself about it, (e.g. 『this pain won』t go away, it』ll get worse』, etc.) Then see if you can let the narrative go and simply experience the feelings with kind awareness.
Remind yourself that this narrative is only a thought. Thinking something doesn』t mean that it is real! It may be real, or not. Like all thoughts, this one comes and goes. It isn』t necessarily true.
Do this again and again.
Using clear thinking to investigate the content of inner narratives
When you are aware of thoughts that relate to your unpleasant experiences, ask yourself:
1. Is what I am thinking true?
2. Am I confusing a thought or fantasy with a fact?
3. Am I thinking in all-or-nothing terms? (『always』, 『must』, 『necessarily』, etc.)
4. Am I blaming others or myself?
5. If I believe this thought, where will it lead me?
6. Am I really trying to gain clarity about my situation, or am I indulging in anxious speculation?
7. Will these thoughts help me to improve the quality of my life?
Mindfulness of our thoughts is more difficult to practise than awareness of body sensations and feelings—thoughts are more elusive.
It is important to explore your thoughts in a warm, relaxed kind of way—remaining in touch with your body and feelings. At times you may be under the impression that you aren』t getting anywhere, but you may only need to give it more time. Very likely you will then gradually undermine the impact negative thinking and catastrophizing are having over you.
Changing destructive into supportive narratives
Much of the art of mindfulness is staying in touch with our experience. When we have unpleasant experiences, we often do one of four things:
1. Distract ourselves
2. Blame others or the situation
3. Fall into self-pity
4. Catastrophize (i.e. predict that the unpleasant experience will end in something even worse)
These tendencies are all fruitless. Distraction means that we try to avoid the actual experience (but it will come back!); blame usually leads us nowhere (even if someone else is indeed responsible); self-pity is both painful and a form of laziness (again, we avoid to meet the actual issues of the situation); catastrophizing has the immediate and long-term effect of making the pain even worse.
It is much more helpful to:
Stay open and receptive to your actual experience (and keep doing this).
Keep in contact with others. (When things are difficult your world may close in around you a bit, isolating you from those who love and wish to support you. This only makes things worse).