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How to Stop Ruminating Thoughts: Coming Back to Presence

In this video, Eckhart Tolle answers a question about how to break the habit of excessive thinking. He explores the power of presence, uncovering simple ways we might refocus our attention on this present moment. If you’re wondering how to stop ruminating thoughts, the answer is indeed in presence. Since overthinking and anxiety go hand in hand, coming back to the raw experience of this present moment can help to enhance our mental wellbeing.

Coming to Our Senses

Eckhart Tolle invites us, when we notice the mind is caught up in excessive thinking, to come back to our sense perceptions. Through our senses, we can reattune to the present moment and ease the racing mind. This happens not by force or denial but through focused attention.

Here are some examples of how we can quiet the mind through sensory perception:

1. Observe the world around you through your sense of sight – without judgment.

For example, if you are on a walk through the forest, allow your eyes to open to the trees, plants, insects, soil, and animals without labelling or assessing any of it. If you see a trail of ants, a plant, or a bird, simply be present with this visual without assigning any words to it. Watch the world with openness and curiosity.

2. Close your eyes and notice the sounds that filter through the atmosphere.

Similarly, see if you can absorb sounds without assigning labels to them. You can practice this by closing your eyes and noting what you can hear. If you hear the hum of the refrigerator, for instance, see if you might skip the labelling of this noise and simply let its music flow through you.

3. Tuning into our bodily sensations.

Another way to come to our senses is to shift our attention away from the realm of thought and into the physical body. A simple way to practice this is to note the earth beneath our seat or feet. What does it feel like for your body to be in contact with the earth?

Check out this worksheet, ‘Exploring the Five Senses’, to deepen your practice of sensory perception. If you’d like to be guided through a practice, consider Sean Fargo’s ‘Coming to Your Senses’ guided meditation.

Moving into Deeper Peace

All of these simple techniques can help us to discover a deep well of inner peace. Overthinking and anxiety are quite often highly correlated, and since presence can help us to soften our thinking patterns, it can ease our experience of stress and anxiety. For additional resources on how to ease stress and anxiety, check out these mindfulness exercises.

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