“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.”

Marcus Aurelius

I talk with a lot of people about how thoughts are just thoughts and we don’t have to attach to them or reject them.

This is true, they are little more than clouds across the sky, they come and they go, but only if we let them. Very often, by attaching to or rejecting our thoughts, we hold them in place and they begin to stain our awareness.

Letting thoughts come and go is easy, but only so long as we don’t assign a moral value to them.

They float by, some quickly, some lazily, but they don’t need our attention. It is when we let ourselves dwell on them that they become something solid, something real in our lives. And that is when they can become a problem.

One of the most interesting things in meditation is becoming accustomed to the random nature of our thoughts, especially when they are vying for our attention.

It reminds me of Max when he is seeking attention or resisting something, usually going to bed. He just throws things out there until something gains traction, and if this doesn’t work he will just crawl onto my lap and grab my face saying “Look at me. Look at me.”

Now, I don’t generally ignore my children, but the second I latch on to something he says, he’s got me, whether I do this by agreeing (attaching) or disagreeing (rejecting) with it. Let’s say he is telling me the colors of things around us while he is supposed to be going to sleep. If I tell him he is right – yes, that is a red ball – we are engaged and he has an audience. If I tell him he’s wrong – no, the ball is blue – we are engaged and he’s got an audience.

Our thoughts work in very much the same way, only they offer opinions on people and situations, tell us if things are good or bad and encourage us to take a position on everything, whether we have control over that thing or not.

When we are unaware of this process, and unaware that these are just thoughts, they do being to stain our awareness, or “color our soul” as Marcus Aurelius phrases it.

This is especially important when it comes to negative or critical thoughts, because they have the ability to ruin everything in our lives, but this matters with positive thoughts as well. When we are thinking positively, it is important to remember that we are still engaged with our thoughts about something rather than the thing itself. Positive is healthier than negative, but it still just thinking.

Staying present, staying in a place of openness and equanimity, allows things to come and go without staining us. A healthy indifference to the things that are beyond our control and do not concern us allows us to engage life as it is, instead of through the film of how “it should be”.

Choose your thoughts, be intentional in what is allowed to gain traction.

Choose the color of your soul and everything else will follow.