Throughout each day we go through a series of thought patterns. We may feel happy, sad, inspired, depressed, worried, determined, etc at any given point in the day, and so often we want to escape from what we perceive as "negative" emotions and only live in the "positive." I am here to tell you that we are getting fifty percent of each (that's just what we sign up for as humans), and that through taking a step back and observing our thought patterns, we can shift our experience immensely.
So what do I mean by observing our thought patterns? When we are not living fully consciously (which, for many of us, is a great deal of the time), we get completely wrapped up and immersed in our circumstances--what wrongs someone did to us, how our partner should have done something differently, or how "busy" and "stressful" our lives are. It is as if we have tunnel vision goggles on, and we are in the boxing ring in the final round. Some would say, "but I'm just being present in the moment!" While this may seem like being present, I would argue that it is not because we are being led by our circumstances and letting the world's uncontrollable nature blow us around and control our feelings. However, if we take that step back and observe the situation at hand, we can clearly see the facts versus the drama.
I had an interaction with a friend a few weeks ago where I felt as though I was being bossed around and not clearly heard. My instinctual primitive brain reaction was to be frustrated and feel misunderstood--and then I put this practice into practice. I took a step back, observed how I was feeling, and sat with it for a few moments. Then, I thought, "my brain is perceiving that this person is trying to tell me what to do, and it is totally possible that in their mind they're just trying to be helpful. Either way, their commentary or input is something that I don't have to do anything with if I don't want to, I can thank them for it and send them love and that can be it." This is exactly what I did, and in only a matter of moments I went from feeling triggered and close to a spiral of negative thoughts to peaceful, feeling love for this person, and moving onto my next task of the day. I let myself experience my natural "negative" reaction to the situation, and then by observing myself, I was able to adapt a more logical, open minded thought about it (which led to a more "positive" feeling). The key here is that through observing it I was able to choose it. I did not become a victim to my thoughts and circumstances, and was able to have fairly quick peace because of it.
In the example above, you can see that while I was choosing to not be reactive, I was also completely present with the situation at hand. This is the difference. You don't have to be angry or righteous or wildly emotional to care, be present, and create change. In fact, it is far more effective this way. Being able to observe the self and choose how to take on any situation in life, big or small, has been one of the most life changing things I've ever experienced. It is a daily practice, and it is something that I educate myself on again and again so it resonates more deeply each time. We choose what emotions we are going to feel based on our thoughts around our circumstances--and this open-minded way of thinking comes from being able to observe ourselves and see the beautiful gray areas in everything.