Monument Mountain Manifesto

Whereas, you are a great and powerful spiritual being with dignity, direction, and purpose* on an important earth mission;

Whereas, self-knowledge is essential;

Whereas, your inner world consists of thoughts, feelings, and motives for action;

Whereas, thinking is the essential starting place to stake your claim on your inner life;

It is hereby concluded that you should study your thinking intently. And, that’s just we intend to do with this bulletin.

This task is more relevant with each passing year because you are being utterly inundated and bombarded, subliminally and outwardly, in advertisements, news, entertainment, social media, etc with messages everywhere vying for your attention and attempting to program your thinking.

The real pandemic is cognitive distortion. The real opportunity is to get a toehold on thinking.

Dealing with cognitive distortions

Habitually and with regularity, we slide into a large variety of distortions:

  • overgeneralization 
  • magnification
  • minimization
  • personalization
  • labeling
  • all-or-nothing thinking
  • transactional thinking (loss of context)
  • emotional reasoning

This list goes on. Habits are hard enough to overcome, but when we get emotionally triggered our thought distortion intensifies. Fear is undoubtedly a superpotent negative influence.

Knowing about distortion can help.

If we have distorted thinking does it mean something is broken?

No. Nothing is broken. Thinking demands discernment. Being discerning means not believing whatever pops into your field.

Wait. Are you saying we shouldn’t trust ourselves? Shouldn’t we give importance to the things that appear in our consciousness? Shouldn’t our thoughts and feelings guide us?

No, I’m not saying to not trust yourself. Trusting yourself is important. But that’s different from trusting your thoughts. You are not your thoughts. Just because a thought is there doesn’t mean it’s you or what you need. This first and most basic principle is essential:  Don’t believe everything you think.

Is there a way to eradicate my negative thoughts? I want to eliminate them, but I can’t seem to control them. If I keep busy or distracted maybe they will not be so intrusive. Is that a good approach?

You cannot control thoughts with force. Once you realize that and once you are tired of running from them (which doesn’t work either) try the mental technique outlined here.

  1. Awareness — is always the healthy starting point. Pay attention. Practice the observer state. Get some distance from your thoughts. What are you thinking? Hear your internal dialogue – Identify possible distortions.
  2. Acceptance — any thoughts and all thoughts are allowed. No matter how intrusive- acceptance is the key. They are not you and don’t say anything about you. Fighting with them fuels them. They ultimately are transformed with compassion. See below for a remarkable example.  
  3. Corrections — Can you construct alternate thoughts that challenge potential distortions? What is another thought that isn’t as narrow and leaves more options open?

The most remarkable TED talk (“The Voices in My Head”) I’ve ever seen is worth mentioning here and gives a real-life example of the above. It’s about a young woman who discovered that compassion in her thinking was way more powerful than any drug, and was the solution that she had been seeking for so long. The part I love the most is that her inner activity instigates her healing. She is ultimately her own cure.

Our inner life is mysterious but central. Self-study is the mandate (as rather harshly stated by Socrates, the father of Western thought: “An unexamined life is not worth living”).  Can you be expected to know right away when your thinking is distorted? It might take time to know. Practice not reacting to your thoughts. Be slow to judge, slow to act. If you are judging, can you give the other person the benefit of the doubt?

Responding to Triggers

Triggers are everywhere.

If you know you are in a trigger, it’s a huge realization. But then what? I’ll end this bulletin with a body-based technique for responding to a trigger. These are the four steps:

  1. Realizing you’re in a trigger.
  2. Become conscious of your breathing — to get your awareness of your body. Then feel the sensation in your body that accompanies the trigger.
  3. Be sure to not believe your thoughts at this moment. Realize everything is distorted through the trigger filter you’re wearing currently.
  4. Focus on the sensation in the body until the feeling passes.

Catching triggers is growing emotional intelligence which is a predictor of success in life.

We are the operators of a complicated system that makes a cockpit look like a cakewalk.

Unfortunately, we don’t exactly come with a manual… but we can seek out some good approaches as we go.