My older sister convinced me to watch “The Ring” when I was eight years old.
For weeks afterward, I had crazy thoughts about hurting myself and others. The thoughts did not feel like mine.
I asked my own mother if she was going to throw me down a well.
I obsessively imagined my death in various circumstances.
My mind became a hostile environment, so much so that I was afraid of what thoughts would come next.
I thought that because I had these thoughts, I was possessed by the devil.
I hated myself for thinking those things. I tried to stop thinking them. I couldn’t be present in life at all because I was too busy resisting what was happening in my mind.
What I didn’t realize back then, was that my thoughts actually have nothing to do with me.
Here’s the quick coaching on what I’ve since realized:
It is an illusion that we are in control of our thoughts. Thoughts are an independent happening.
Don’t believe me?
Then whatever you do, don’t think about tacos right now.
You can’t help but imagine tacos, am I right?
Or try this: Ask yourself, “I wonder what I am going to think next,” and just wait. You will not make a thought happen. A thought will just appear and you will witness it.
That’s because you are not in control of your thoughts. But you don’t need to be.
All you need to do is realize that they are not in control of you. In fact, they have nothing to do with you.
No thought has ever made you do anything. You have freely chosen to do everything you have ever done, regardless of your thoughts about it.
Haven’t you ever wanted to punch someone but didn’t do it? That was you choosing freely despite your thoughts.
Your thoughts are simply an object of your awareness; they are not who you are. You are not at the mercy of them.
How can we be sure we aren’t our thoughts?
Consider this: How do you know that you aren’t the screen you are reading right now? Because you are the one observing it. The screen can’t be you, because then who would be observing it?
The same goes for your thoughts. When you have a thought, where are you in that equation? You can’t be the thought itself, because then who is the one observing it? It has to be you. You are the vast, spacious emptiness from which everything arises, including your thoughts. You are the witness of your thoughts.
Your thoughts don’t mean anything about you.
Suffering happens when we identify with our changeable internal state (thoughts, judgements, emotions, and interpretations).
To get free from identification with your thoughts, try this exercise:
Pretend one of your hands represents your internal state, and the other hand represents you—the witness. Now cup your hands together.
Shake the hand that represents your internal state. Both hands moved, didn’t they? The hand that wasn’t causing the movement was forced to move in direct reaction to the other hand.
When we identify ourselves with our internal state, we have no power to create because we are in a constant reaction to our thoughts and feelings.
Now, separate your hands so that there is a space between your internal state and the witness. Now shake the hand representing your internal state.
The witness doesn’t move. It is completely unaffected.
This represents what it is like to be peaceful, to be equanimous regardless of our internal state. This is what it is to unidentify. We get to live creatively, free from being triggered by our circumstances.
To get to this place, practice complete acceptance of your internal state. Release all judgements about your thoughts and attempts to control your thoughts; simply be the witness to them.
Thinking that we need to control our thoughts is like holding a door shut when someone is trying to force it open from the other side. It wastes our energy and takes us away from doing anything else.
So just step aside, let the door open, and let in whatever needs to come through. It will go out the other side and you will be left with nothing to resist.
Slowly, we will stop trying to fix yourself and the world and we will begin to live in a state of acceptance, gratitude and love of what is. We will begin to discover who we really are.
Author: Brandilyn Tebo
Image: Author’s video
Editor: Danielle Beutell