Are Your Thoughts Yours?

Knowing where your thoughts come from and how they influence you is a powerful leg-up for personal transformation.

The Thinker

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 (the comments section), 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. If you truly differentiate which thoughts appear as random noise, seemingly broadcast from something external to you — NotYou — as opposed to those which emanate from that deep part of you not conditional upon outside factors… then you gain control. Self control.

Much of this blog is about change. Figuring out what supports the best in you, the healthiest mind, body, emotions, sprit — and then putting it into motion. Till you get it, and 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 entwined with emotion and then settled in to create the attitudes that form what you believe yourself to be?

The idea is that 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 what a pebble forms on the surface of a pond when tossed in a pond.

Each circle represents an influence, the closest circle being the most influential, such as parents or siblings. The next circle encompassing the rest represents perhaps teachers, relatives, 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 genuflecting in a robotic reaction. Any thought that demeans 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 the still space to consider why this thought exits, where it comes from, 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 it, rather than watch it. Use your breathe. Sit down and concentrate on your breathe, in hold, out – hold, repeat. Close your mouth. Breathe through your nose.

If you have the opportunity, take a meditation class. Learn to be the observer. It might wind up being the truest form of you.

Share. Someone you know will be thankful.
Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

  • william schaefer says:

    Thank you, Joe, for your comments and the link to Mr. Nichtern's blog post.
    Mr. Lichtern begins his blog with the statement that he is a Buddhist, so I will limit my remarks to that statement alone.

    What is a Buddhist? How does he know he is a Buddhist? Is Buddhism so embracing a religion that it can swallow Mr. Nichtern up whole? “I am” is a reflection of unoriginal thought; the only person who can be a Buddhist is none other than Buddha.

    When one embarks on authenticity, one begins a lonely journey, and that journey is a pathless land. By embracing a religion, or politics, or creed, one gives up oneself for the illusory security of society, which of course includes friends and family. Better to give up all attachments and to suffer Nietzsche's Tragedy of the Ass — the beast of burden that has its load strapped to its back; unable to either bear the weight or throw off. But at least you carry only your own thoughts.

  • Joe says:

    Sounds a bit extreme for most people, William. Humans are mostly social people and rarely thrive in isolation, be it physical or mental.

  • Joe says:

    Sounds a bit extreme for most people, William. Humans are mostly social people and rarely thrive in isolation, be it physical or mental.

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