You are not your thoughts

Photo by Daniil Vnoutchkov on Unsplash

Something marvellous happens when people begin to settle into their own sense of calm. They gain a glimpse into the fact that the churning maze of thoughts in their heads is something they can choose to engage in or not.

Just because a thought pops up, doesn’t mean it is true and it doesn’t necessarily mean it is useful or insightful. Thoughts come and go – constantly. But you are not your thoughts.

Yet many people do believe their own thoughts. They can’t understand how someone could differ in their opinion, because, well – isn’t it just obvious?

As we age we can become more rigid in our thinking.

Consider children and how they operate in the world. Their field of perception is wide and full of wonder; they have very little agenda, but respond and interact with stimuli as it crosses their path.

As adults, we learn to make mental shortcuts. We want to move more quickly than children because we’re responsible for safety and survival. We’ve seen this before, our mind recognises it and helps us reach the conclusion faster – these pathways are literally wired into our brains. Like the first sled tracks in fresh powdered snow, the second thought down the mountain follows that carved out path. It’s easier, more efficient.

There is an evolutionary purpose to this, but it can be limiting, especially if those thought patterns are particularly negative, and on repeat.

And thoughts and beliefs – they are not nothing … they are powerful! Why do scientific experiments test for the placebo effect? Because our minds can literally cause a physical change, simply because we believe it to be so. If you could bottle the placebo effect, you’d be a billionaire.

The ancient animal instinct of your enteric brain, in contrast, is “pre-thought,” urging you to move to safety or make a certain decision before you can even begin to consciously rationalise what is going on. There is an intelligence in you that has nothing to do with thoughts.

The unchanging mind

Below the rough whitehorses that jostle boats around and toss surfers off waves, there is a clear strong body of water, deep below the surface. And the sun obscured by the stormy cloud might not be visible, but it is always there, unchanging.

The natural state of the mind is clear, stable and open – but thoughts can, and often do, cloud this clarity.

When you first begin to meditate, you might suddenly be aware of ALL THE THOUGHTS. Beginning meditators are seemingly flooded with thoughts. It’s the waterfall effect! Because you have turned your attention inward, you are now aware of the multitude of thoughts.

And many people find this process of letting thoughts go, really difficult.

If you place your attention on the thoughts, you are literally meditating on that thought.

So in meditation we choose to meditate on the breath – simply by placing the attention on the breath and how it engages with the body. It’s a gentle process of guiding the mind away from the thought, and back to the breath. By becoming aware of your thoughts and not engaging with them, you can turn your mind into an ally.

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