Nature of thoughts

149One of the biggest calamities of the human race is that we take ‘our’ thoughts too seriously and we suffer as a consequence. When there is a tendency to being lost in the content of thoughts, which is the habitual state of humanity, ‘we’ are at mercy of whatever thoughts might pop-up in ‘our heads’. An almost constant flux of thoughts appears on the horizon which can trigger a wide range of conditioned emotional responses.

Let’s say you are working on a home improvement project and try to assemble some furniture what you never did before. At first, some enthusiastic thoughts may come up with images about your beautiful new table and the approving smile on the face of your spouse. This fantasy may trigger some pleasurable emotions with a feeling of contentment which enhances your self-image. Later, when you start working on your project, some disturbing thoughts might arise: ‘This is much harder than I thought. I don’t know how to do it. What if I screw it up?’ – accompanied with images of a badly-built, wobbly table and the face of your wife frowning at you. Feelings of disappointment and dissatisfaction go along with this story and your previously inflated self-esteem is now plummeting. What’s going on here?

Thoughts come and go as clouds on the sky but when they are believed they seem to become real for ‘us’. There is an emphasis on the word ‘seem’ because in reality – meaning in direct experience – a thought is real, but never its content. Its content is just a dream, a fantasy. When this is seen, the grip of the heaviness of thoughts is gone.

The function of thoughts is to make a mental description or concept about what IS for a later storage in memory, but this doesn’t mean automatically that this concept is accurate or real.

When thoughts are seen for what they are – mere thoughts passing by – their emptiness and powerlessness become apparent. They don’t point to any real thing.

The mind is a labelling machine.
Thoughts pop-up out of the blue, and ‘you’ have no control over them.
‘You’, who think you have control over ‘your’ thoughts, is just another thought.
There is no ‘you’ to have thoughts.
Thoughts are real, but you are NOT.

When this is seen, there is freedom.
Freedom from the grasp of thoughts.
Freedom from the constant need to become or to appear as somebody in the eyes of the ‘other’.

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What is suffering?

109In order to answer this question, first, we have to make distinction between pain and suffering.

Imagine that you have bought a beautiful framed picture and you are just up to put it on the wall. You position the nail to the marked spot on the wall, lift the hammer, but a sudden sharp noise distracts your attention and you hit your thumb with the hammer instead of the nail. Abruptly, you feel a sharp pain.

Just in a few seconds, a chain of self referencing thoughts emerges: ‘What a fool I am! I should have been more careful. Oh, it hurts so much! What am I going to do now? What if I am not able to work tomorrow? I won’t be able to type, I’m sure. How will I explain it to my boss?’ – and it goes on and on. This is suffering.

The physical pain is real, but the suffering is optional.

When this string of selfing thoughts, which is a story put onto the experience of pain, is seen for what it is, and not believed or taken seriously, then what is left is just the raw experience of pain in the thumb.

Suffering is the byproduct of a belief in the illusion of the self, who ‘lives’ separately from the rest of the world. When the ‘I’-thought is seen through then there is nobody who could suffer from anything.

From the point of view of the separate ‘individual’ the suffering seems very vivid and real, because all the thoughts that generate suffering are believed. Like in the movie analogy, when the character identifies with its role, all the happenings in the movie of the flow of life are taken very seriously. As the story of ‘his’ life plays itself, the character is just tossed around in the endless waves of the ocean being at the mercy of the elements.

When the story is seen through, it becomes translucent and loses its sharpness and seriousness. It becomes lighter and entertaining as a movie intended to be. Even if the story takes a ‘darker’ turn in the form of sickness or some kind of loss – pain, sadness, frustration or anger may arise but they cannot stick to anywhere and linger, since there is no ‘you’ to stick to, who could suffer from them.

Suffering is optional.
Without believing thoughts, there is no suffering.

How is the self constructed? (part 2)

Around the age of two, the ‘story of my life’ started its lifelong, ragged journey. The ‘I’, who is the centre of the story, has been constantly and uncontrollably expanding out to the universe.

119The human mind is a labelling machine, meaning that it interprets and judges everything it encounters. It cannot help doing it, this is its job.

The original self-construct, which is an identification with the ‘I’-thought – ‘I am Charlie, I am this body’ – is further expanded with a huge array of adjectives picked up from the environment, like ‘Charlie is a good boy, so I am good’, and later, generated within the system itself by thinking, ‘I screwed it up, I am a failure’.

These deductions that ‘I am good’ or ‘I am a failure’ later become beliefs and the attributes of the ‘I’, which are nothing more than unexamined thoughts. In addition to these self-generated beliefs, a huge web of social norms have been gradually internalised into the dream of sense of ‘me’.

‘I’ have learned what is good or bad, what ‘I’ should and shouldn’t do in order to be accepted by the seeming ‘others’. But social norms are nothing more than beliefs – unexamined thoughts – but we believe that they are accurate descriptions of what IS.

So, when a slim body becomes the beauty ideal of society, then the slimness is labelled as high value, as a means for the ‘I’ to gain approval and attention from others, while its opposite, a ‘fat’ body is tagged undesirable, ugly and worthless. But these labels are just beliefs. The body itself does not have any innate attributes of worth, beauty or ugliness, regardless of its size. The body cannot be young or become old. ‘Young’ and ‘old’ are just mental constructs, labels put onto the mental image of the body. The body just IS, as it IS.

But since these labelling thoughts and beliefs are believed and not seen for what they are – a stream of thoughts passing by like clouds in the sky – they become the attributes of the sense of ‘I’, which leads to suffering.

But this is just a story, nothing more.
There has never been a self, an ‘I’ in the first place.
The self is just a fiction, an illusion.
‘I’ do not exist.

This is freedom.

How is the self constructed? (part 1)

Human suffering originates from the belief that there is somebody inside the body, a solid entity, an individual, who is separate from the rest of the world. As a result of thinking, a seemingly existing ‘me’ energy is ‘created’, an autonomous entity, with free will and doership, who acts independently from everything else.

103But how is this self created? What is the sense of ‘I’ made of? When ‘I’ was a baby, before learning the language ‘I’ think in now, the aliveness of the body was there, but the ‘I’ was not. As the brain developed and acquired the capacity to learn a language, the word ‘I’ was learned – alongside with thousand others, but not being particularly more important than any other words – as a means to localise bodies in space, to differentiate this body from others. Consequently, the sense of aliveness in the body has become associated with the word ‘I’.

In the meantime, the body was given a name, ‘Here comes Charlie’, and it is learned that this name refers to this particular body. From these associations, an idea is constructed in the developing brain: ‘I am Charlie, I am this body’, – and the sense of self was ‘born’, believed into reality.

Later on, as picking up the language went on, different verbal names for emotions were adopted from the surrounding environment and labelled the pure sensations that arose in the body. Thus, the sense of self expanded with the inclusion of ‘my feelings’. ‘I am Charlie, I am this body, and I’m happy’.

Meanwhile, as the developing brain reached the capacity to retain long term memory, the sense of ‘I’ further expanded with images from the ‘past’, thus the ‘story of my life’ started its journey with the hero, the ‘I’, at the centre of the dream. From there, the self, which is constructed from the ‘past’, is being projected into the ‘future’.

A separate individual was ‘born’ out of nothing, without any real substance.
The only reality is the sensations in the body, the sensory perceptions and the arising thoughts.

But where is the self?
Has there ever been a self, or is it just a trick of the mind?
Where are ‘you’?
Is there a real ‘you’ in the body?

Or there is just a movement of energy, like the waving of the ocean, the blowing of the wind or the warmth of the sun.

Being lost in the story of ‘my’ life

043.1How many hours a day do ‘you’ spend in storyland? Is it noticed when being lost in the content of a story happens, or ‘you’ are just tossed around in the endless ocean of thoughts from one story to the other? In our everyday lives most of us do not live in the present moment, but in a constant stream of stories.

Let’s have a look at an everyday scenario. On a sunny afternoon, after work, the body is driving home on the motorway, while the ‘me’ is still in a story about what happened in the meeting. ‘My boss was so unfair to me. He shouldn’t have said that. I’m so pissed off…’ – and the story goes on. Tension and contraction arise in the body due to anger and resentment towards ‘my’ boss. Suddenly, a sense of hunger takes place which triggers another story, a story about being at home eating ‘my’ favourite pizza. Then, unexpectedly, a ‘mad’ driver cuts ‘me’ off almost causing an accident which sets off a new stream of story with images of being in hospital due to severe injuries. ‘That crazy, stupid bastard, he almost killed me. When I’m out of hospital I’ll track him down and give him a lecture on good behaviour’.

In the meantime, the body is still in the car and just arrives home, unharmed, but the ‘me’ doesn’t even remember how it got there because of an endless dreaming about the story of ‘my’ life.

And this is how most of us live, almost constantly falling in and out from one story to another hundred or thousand times a day, hardly noticing the blooming trees on the side of the road, the warmth of the sun on the skin, the whispering of the wind and the pleasant tingling sensation in the hands. All this is missed for only one reason: to keep the illusion of the self ‘alive’.

But the ‘I’ lives only in stories.
Without story there is no ‘me’.
If the stream of stories stops just for a second, the ‘me’ vanishes.
When there is no ‘me’ then there is peace.

Driving happens, seeing happens, steering the wheel happens but nobody is doing it.

It is not even necessary for the story to stop; it is enough to see the story for what it is, a stream of thoughts passing by. When this seeing happens, the ‘I’, who is the hero of the story, is also seen through.

‘Me’ is just another thought.
‘Me’ is nothing, an empty word.
‘Me’ does not refer to anything.

Seeking

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When we read reviews about new books, we often find those types of comments where the reader / seeker compares a writer’s previous book with the new one and concludes that this second one is not good enough, there isn’t anything new in it, it didn’t give anything to them. Quite often, the seeker finds another ‘spiritual teacher’ whose words can add a bit more to their ‘knowledge’ or beliefs about spirituality or how to achieve ‘enlightenment’ or certain states.

This seeking can be so strong that one could do nothing else than searching for more and more ‘knowledge’ or strategies. ‘This new type of meditation… maybe this is the one. Maybe this will give me what I’m searching for’.

But do you know exactly what you are seeking for?

What if the self is searching for itself? What if the ‘I’ desperately wants to find itself? Is it possible? Can a thought find itself? If not, what is searching and what is it searching for?

Fulfilment… can a thought be fulfilled?
Peace… can a thought be at peace?
Love… can a thought love or be loved?
Can a thought attain anything?

Is it really seeking something? Is there really a self that is searching? Or this whole seeking is just a cover up? What if seeking is just a cover story laid on top of the illusion of the self?

Not to find out the truth… not to see what IS… and what is not.