La Trobe Counselling Service
- Mindfulness of Thoughts (The Butterfly Exercise)
In the following exercise, thoughts can be like butterflies. If you hold onto them too tightly or attempt to push them away, they will overwhelm you or remain lifeless in your hands.
Let’s begin. Settle into a comfortable position with your feet firmly on the ground and sitting up in your chair like you are waiting for a bus. Notice the weight of your body in the chair and the support of your feet on the floor.
Gently close your eyes. Start by taking a few deep breaths, with the air coming in and out through your nostrils. Then gently allow your breathe to return to whatever rhythm feels natural for you at the moment.
Picture yourself sitting in a field on a warm summer day. There is a slight breeze and you can feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Just take a few moments to connect with this scene.
As you relax into your experience, your thoughts may begin to wander and they become a steady stream of butterflies flying past you. There are a wide variety of butterflies in the stream…some are fabulous…comforting…and attractive…while others are unappealing…critical…and judgmental. You feel completed to reach out and hold onto the comforting butterflies, while pushing away the critical unappealing ones.
Take your right hand and hold it to your body lightly as if you are embracing the comforting butterflies. Then take your left hand and begin swatting away the unappealing ones. Notice your thoughts and sensations in your body as you are trying to do this.
As you continue to struggle with all the butterflies, you may slowly begin to realise that those thoughts that you have been trying to push away, may out-number those you were trying so hard to hold on to.
As you continue to struggle with all the butterflies, you may slowly begin to realise that those that you had been trying to push away, may out-number those you were trying so hard to hold on to.
Now rest your hands back onto your lap again and simply notice all the butterflies.
Thoughts can be like the butterflies if you hold onto them too tightly or attempt to push them away, they will overwhelm you or remain lifeless in your hands.
However, if you are willing to begin observing thoughts, regardless of how you feel, as if they are butterflies landing in the palm of your hand, they will eventually fly away, making room for other thoughts and experiences to present themselves.
Now gently and in your own time, bring your attention back to the breath releasing your focus on your thoughts. Shift in your chair and you may like to have a stretch.