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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Who are you protecting when you protect your friend?

161Imagine that you are in a garden party held by one of your friends. As you are walking along by a group of people, you cannot help but overhear their conversation as they are making fun of somebody else who is not there. You walk on, but suddenly you realise that the person they are talking about is your best friend, Pete. Thoughts come up: ‘Wait a minute. They are making fun of Pete. They shouldn’t talk like this. Pete is a very good guy. I have to do something. I have to protect him.’ The body becomes tense, and you feel frustrated. You turn around, hasten your steps back to them to pick up a fight to protect your best friend.

What do you think who are you protecting? Are you really protecting Pete or just protecting the concept of Pete in ‘your head’?

During the ten-year friendship, an intricately detailed mental concept of Pete has been built up in ‘your’ brain. This concept is compounded of a mental image of his body, his name Pete, the sound of his voice, his habitual reactions to certain circumstances, his likes and dislikes, the stories he frequently tells, and all the good and bad memories of times you spent together.

But this mental image is not ‘him’. This construct ‘lives’ only in ‘your’ mind. Actually, there is a huge web of conditioned neuronal networks in the brain that creates and re-creates this image of Pete every time ‘you’ think of him.

This mental image of Pete serves a seemingly quite important job; to be a building block of ‘you’. This concept of Pete is a small segment of ‘your’ self. The illusion of ‘I’ lives in almost every concept and all beliefs. The ‘I’ is assembled from these small fragments. When a part of it is seen through, then the identification with that part is no longer total. A segment of ‘you’ is dissolved.

So, who do ‘you’ protect when protecting ‘your’ friend?

‘You’ are protecting ‘your’ self.
The self that does not exist.
‘You’ protect an illusion of ‘your’ existence.

‘I’, as the centre of the universe

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When the identification with the ‘I’ thought set forth, from then on, literally everything is viewed from the perspective of a separate individual. The ‘I’ becomes the centre of the universe, and contrary to popular belief, this egoic perspective never stops until the end of the organism. The only way to break the spell is to awaken to the realisation that there has never been a self, who could own life, in the first place.

The sense of ‘me’ is constructed by the brain from the concoction of the mental image of the body, the collection of memories – which is the base of ‘my’ life story –, the compilation of thousands or millions of beliefs with the associated emotional responses and conditioned, habitual judgements.

With every thought and every belief the sense of ‘I’ is ‘created’ again and again. ‘I’ am the centre of everything. The ‘I’-thought is so pervasive that it is there even in the most seemingly innocent judgements, like ‘This flower is so beautiful’. Apparently, the word ‘I’ is missing from this statement, and yet, it is still there implicitly, because ‘I’ am the one who makes this judgement about the flower, according to ‘my’ definition of beauty. A flower does not have an innate attribute of beauty. The flower just IS. ‘I’ project beauty on it. ‘I’ put the mental label of beauty on it.

Reality is neutral.

All the input that comes from our senses is filtered through a huge, intricate web of beliefs. As a result, a flower may look like ‘for me’ as if it has independent and inherent attributes as its own. But in direct experience, there are no attributes, just colours, shapes, movements, scents, textures.

When these judgement and beliefs are seen for what they are – simple thoughts passing by – then the heavy veil of life gently becomes translucent until it disappears back to nothingness.

This is peace.
This is what ‘we’ are seeking.
Freedom from ‘our’ selves.

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.

Thoughts are not facts

051The human brain produces more than 70,000 thoughts a day. Most of these thoughts are repetitive, meaning that most of them are the same thoughts that ‘we’ have had for decades.

There is a tendency to believe that thoughts are accurate descriptions of reality; however, this could not be further from the truth. A thought is just a label on what IS, never the thing itself. The experience is gone in the moment when thinking about the experience has happened. Thought has ‘replaced’ what IS, and the experience has become the content of the thought.

Thoughts can be artificially divided into two categories: practical or problem solving thoughts and self referencing thoughts. Not surprisingly, most of our thoughts are self referencing thoughts which all our apparent troubles ‘originate’ from, and all these selfing thoughts revolve around one single thought, ‘I’.

After seeing that there is no separate self to be found, Descartes’ most famous existential statement ‘I think, therefore I am’ can be viewed from a different angle.

The ‘me’ exists only in story which is nothing else than a stream of thoughts. So, ‘I exist’ only as a concept in thought. If this thought is taken to be real, the illusion of the sense of ‘I’ emerges with a conclusion that ‘I think, therefore I am’.

But can a thought think?
Can a thought exist as a solid entity in space and time?
Is thinking a proof of the existence of ‘me’?

Thinking happens as a functioning of the organism.
‘I am thinking’ is just another thought.

You are not who ‘you’ think you are.

Because ‘you’ are NOT.