Are Your Thoughts Yours?
Knowing where your thoughts come from and how they influence you is a powerful leg-up for personal transformation.
I recently left a comment on a blog post written by David Nichtern which proposed that many of our thoughts are not our own. Mr. Nichtern is a Buddhist teacher, and as you might expect, his insights were… well… insightful.
Given the forum, my comment to his post was short, but it got me thinking that this topic is worth exploring here.
Why is there value in exploring the source of our thoughts?
For the same reason that there’s value in knowing what is and is not you. To differentiate which thoughts appear as random noise, seemingly broadcast from something external to you (NotYou), as opposed to those thoughts that emanate from that deep part of you that are not conditional upon outside factors is how you gain control of your mind.
Much of this blog is about optimizing your life, and this requires change, even if it’s hard. You need to figure out what supports the best in you — the healthiest mind, body, emotions, spirit — and then put that into motion. Perhaps you begin with tiny steps till you get it. Then you have it. And it’s you.
The first step to change something — to get to somewhere else — is to know where you’re starting from, and how you got there to begin with.
So, what thoughts have spooled up with emotion, and then settled in to create the attitudes that form what you believe yourself to be?
Many of our thoughts appear in our mind as if emanating from outside us, which makes some sense, because they often are. Think of yourself as the dot in the center with concentric circles around you, like those that spread out upon the surface of a pond after a rock is tossed in.
Each circle represents an influence, the closest circle being the most influential, such as your parents or siblings. The next broader circle represents teachers, relatives and friends, and the next country, culture, education, socio-economics and the like.
All these influences not only shape us, but give birth to thoughts that are not our own. Literally, such thoughts have been shaped by exogenous factors, and are not really our own in the truest and purist sense.
How to know what thoughts are yours?
You must observe your thoughts dispassionately, as opposed to robotically reacting to them without reflection. Thoughts that demean you typically triggers an avalanche of similarly negative thoughts. Very soon you get pulled down into a swirling vortex of negativity. You go way down. And it started with one thought that probably isn’t even true.
Sure, maybe the thought is that your overweight and, indeed, the mirror proves it. But if you can be the observer, not the reactor, you get to create the still, non-judgemental space to consider why this thought exits, where it comes from, and what it suggests that you should do, if anything.
Being the non-prejudicial observer takes practice
It’s more natural, it seems, to react to your thoughts rather than watch them, but that’s because you might never have done anything else. However, you have the choice to hit the pause button. Use your breathe. Sit down and concentrate on your breathe, in hold, out – hold, repeat. Close your mouth. Breathe through your nose. Use the 4x4x4 technique to still your mind and replace self-destructive thoughts with those that support your intention to have the life you want to experience.
If you have the opportunity, take a meditation class. Learn to be the observer. It might wind up being the truest form of you.