“In my experience, we don’t make thoughts appear, they just appear. One day, I noticed that their appearance just wasn’t personal. Noticing that really makes it simpler to inquire.”
As you probably know in your own experience, as humans we are highly conditioned to believe what our minds tell us about ourselves.
Without even being aware of it, we take on the way the thoughts describe us as our unquestioned reality.
- If your thoughts tell you about all the things that could go wrong, you say, “I’m anxious,” or “I’m a control freak.”
- If your thoughts judge, compare, and criticize—yourself or others—you live in that negativity and separation as if it were true.
- You believe your opinions are facts.When we say, “I am…(fill in whatever the thought is saying),” we’re identifying with the content of those thoughts, taking it to be true.
Here’s a fact: identifying with our thoughts will always bring suffering to our lives. So if you want to suffer, how to do it? Believe what your thoughts tell you.
How You Speak to Yourself
For most of us, it takes time to untangle ourselves from the content of our thinking, and a skillful way along the path is to be very clear in the language we use.
It’s common to say something like,“I’m a mess and unlovable.” What’s more accurate is: “Thoughts are arising in me telling me I’m a mess and unlovable.”
You might say, “I’m worried.” But a more accurate way to describe what’s actually happening is to say, “Worrying thoughts are arising in me.”
When you say, “I’m worried,” you believe you’re the one who is worried, and there’s a sense of shutting down and believing all the implications of being someone who is worried.
But “Worrying thoughts are arising in me” changes everything. You are no longer identifying with what the thoughts are telling you. You have space for something new.
And it doesn’t have to be only about thoughts. You can also say, ‘The feeling of anxiety is arising in me.” Or, “There are sensations present in the body,” instead of, “I’m feeling anxious.”
Your Thoughts Don’t Describe You Accurately
This may sound like an awkward way to describe your experience, but it’s much closer to the truth than identifying with your thoughts. I highly recommend it.
There are benefits to this practice.
First, it’s a quick and obvious reminder that you are not your thoughts. It helps you to break the identification with your thoughts so you’re not taking them so personally.
Yes, that’s what I mean. Your thoughts aren’t personal to you—they just appear in the mind.
Once you have some space from the contents of your mind (which are mostly negative), you can be in the moment with openness, curiosity, and kindness.
Second, it invites you to question who you are and who you’re not.If fear or a judging thought arises in you, then who is the you that they arise in? This question offers an interesting exploration that will help you to suffer less.
If this doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry about it. Just live in the question of what’s true about you if you are not what your thoughts tell you that you are.
Take away the content of your thoughts…and what remains?
I invite you to try out this practice—how about right now? Close your eyes and notice the thoughts or feelings that are arising right now. Say, “These thoughts and feelings are arising in me.”
Now shift to the “me” that these objects are arising in. You’ll probably become aware of open space, ease, and peace. Now you are aware of the essential choice.
You can pick up those objects if you want to any time and make them real—or rest as this openness…endlessly…