#162 People Are Not Their Thoughts Or Actions
There is great freedom in seeing if even for fleeting moments here and there, the reality that you are not your thoughts. The human tendency to thoroughly identify with the neverending cacophonous racket raging inside our heads – to mistake this constant din of self-beration, judgement, dissatisfaction, scorekeeping, longing, planning and daydreaming as fundamentally what we are – has been well understood by philosophical and religious traditions such as Stoicism, Buddhism, and Christianity for millennia.
But the reality (a reality that remains unfortunately invisible to most people, but that can be recognized through study, contemplation and/or meditation) is that our thoughts are automatically generated events. They come upon us as if from the outside. They land in our minds unbidden and uninvited. They are phantoms that descend upon us, unstoppable, from the ether. By the time we notice a thought, it is already there – it has let itself in without knocking. We have no control over what thoughts materialise in our mind.
Becoming aware that thoughts are objects that arise in your consciousness but are not what you are is the first step and the biggest step in the journey of freeing yourself from their merciless grip.
Different knowledge traditions recommend different ways of dealing with thoughts once you see them for what they are. Stoicism and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy suggest seeing your thoughts clearly and shining them under the light of reason and rationality, picking them apart and exposing their (almost always!) distorted and illogical nature. Buddhism suggests becoming so very aware of the nature of your ‘monkey mind’ and its incessant chatter – through observing it again and again in meditation – that you gain a profound experiential understanding of the fact that your thoughts are essentially meaningless and should not be taken seriously.
Whatever the specific recommendations of different knowledge traditions, there is widespread agreement that clearly apprehending the distance between your thoughts and the you that is more fundamental – the ‘watcher’ of your thoughts – is a big step in the direction of truth, awakening, rationality, and a more rewarding experience of life.
Join us in part 2!