• Richard Ingate

Sticky thoughts on toast

Mmm toast!

I was sitting doing nothing.

Out of who-knows-where a thought of freshly made toast on newly baked wholemeal bread with lashings of butter and cinnamon honey came to visit. Feelings are the colour of our thoughts and this was coloured and scented with a delicious urgency to ‘eat me now’

The thought was quite well prepared for the conversation and had persuasive arguments to support the craving: ‘It’s the weekend,you deserve a treat’It’s not like it’s going to be a habit, it’s just this onceI’m really yummy… So there I was, being coaxed by a thought/feeling combo attack and now also mentally rehearsing just how delicious that toast with lashings of butter and a gushing of cinnamon honey would taste.

There were also opposing thoughts: You’re not actually hungry

This is taking you away from your health and fitness goals

What kind of weak willed whimp are you?


The nature of thoughts

Some thoughts are sticky and the feeling that is part of them/linked with them, gives those thoughts a pull to action, an impetus to expression that lights up other parts of the brain to support its case.

This can, and does lead to tiring internal conflict where we seem to be at war with our cravings and desires. Too much of that malarky leaves less of us available to live life in the present and appreciate its potential richness.

Of course ‘toast’ is a trivial albeit real example.

Other thoughts are even more sticky - loss,grief,anger, perfectionism, stress, anxiety- and so on. One thing makes a thought sticky beyond all else. That one thing is believing the thought is about the world and thus ‘real’ as opposed to realising it is an internally created thought/feeling connection that has been fired and wired.

It’s not about the toast (unless you are genuinely hungry and then any food would do). It’s a misunderstanding.It’s a harmful misunderstanding because it places the power to change what is an internal event, on the outside event. It was never about the toast. Freshly made bread, butter and cinnamon honey were all in my kitchen before the thought paid a visit and were not even in my consciousness.

Now change the context to a very common experience of work. It may well be true that your boss really is a dick. They certainly do exist. Expecting/hoping him or her to change or go so that you can feel better is talking away any influence you have in the situation, and makes you a victim.

Or, rather your understanding of the situation places you in the victim role. It is probably true that you would feel better if that boss were struck by some karmic lightening and vanished from your life. But you would have had no hand in that and you would not have learned anything that could help you in similar situations. You would still be at the whim of fate and not have gained anything you could use in future situations.

So it is probably more useful to gain insight into how your mind is presenting the world to you, and how a thought/feeling really is a thought/feeling and does not need to be a call to action, nor be an accurate description of the world.

So how?

There is probably not a one size fits all answer. I come from a background of meditation practice and so that for me is at the forefront of what I find valuable is developing a degree of calmness and stability of mind.

Meditation means here being able to sit with, or go for a walk with the thoughts and feelings of toast and honey and be apart enough from them to notice how they feel, and to notice that this is in fact a thought and this is infact a feeling.

Thoughts and feelings come and go. They are not necessarily something we need to take action on. The feeling to go and make toast is a feeling to go and make toast. It is a wanting and that is the quality of that feeling. It has an energy that asks for action but that action does not have to be a given. It is not a built in and automatic part of the system that when we desire something we automatically do it. This is probably fortunate for those of us who have somewhat fiery tempers at times.

As a very basic introduction to developing a stable mind you could sit quietly and pay attention to your breath going in and out. No need to change it or make it anything different.

Just pay attention and bring your mind back when it wanders (it will).

Another (more weather dependent) idea would be to sit quietly outside and just sit and notice what is around you. When you drift into thinking, stop and come back to the world around you.

Very simple and nothing special unless you actually start doing them on a regular basis and then you will also begin to cultivate a more stable and resilient mind and experience the benefits of such a practice.


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