You are not your thoughts. How many times have you heard this statement? It may be one of those things that we know, but don’t fully understand. Once we understand this concept, life becomes a little bit easier. The best way is to think about it as we’ve done so much, so far. Are your thoughts real? Thinking alone does nothing to affect the world. If I sat in the corner for the rest of my life and thought, I would accomplish nothing. Instead of believing that our thoughts are what makes us as people, it’s more accurate to say that action is what defines us.
Our thoughts may be the thing that springs us into action. The powerful thing about the mind is that we can always change it. Sometimes thoughts are just thoughts. If we all judged ourselves by how we thought, we’d all be terrible people. I don’t have to give you an example. You know what you think. The reason we may identify with them is because they seem real when they are merely in our heads.
The thoughts we have fuel our perception and give meaning to just about anything. You could be in a restaurant and walk by a nice couple and their baby. While your eyes register the baby, your brain thinks, “What a little cutie.” That same baby minutes later can go on a temper tantrum and the only thing racing through your mind is finding different ways to shut it up.
Ruminating on Negative Thoughts
The worst part about our mind is that it ruminates on negative thoughts much easier than it does the positive. I can’t put my finger on the reason, but we tend to notice all the perceived bad things that happen to us rather than the good. A lot of our mental health issues stem from things like anxiety and depression. I’ll define anxiety as worry about the future, and depression sadness about the past. I have never heard of a mental diagnosis where people were overtly happy about the past or the present. I’m trying to get that type of disorder.
The best way to not identify with our thoughts is to be the witness to them. Think of your thoughts like music being played. You hear the lyrics to one instance of thought and then another song starts. Thoughts are very faint in a sense that we don’t even know that they are there until we pay attention to them. The impermanence of a thought is so fickle. They change so consistently, yet we attach our identity to what we think. When most of our thinking is what we perceive to be as negative, suffering occurs.
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
The thing about thoughts is that you can’t stop them. It’s a radio station that plays the hits and misses every time you recognize that you are thinking. Nothing is ever a one hit wonder, sadly. The trick is to have no identification with your thoughts as if they didn’t matter because they really don’t. The case could be made that the less thoughts you have, the more at peace you can be. This is why people engage in practices such as mediation. Once we start detaching our identity to our thoughts, peace can begin.
The only time a thought is meaningful is when we give it meaning. There are tons of thoughts that we pay no attention to. Thoughts really don’t become an issue until we put emphasis on the thought. I know this is going to be a difficult task, but the goal when thinking about thoughts is to avoid the inner negative dialogue that we have with ourselves. When we follow the trail that leads us to our suffering it means that we believe in these thoughts. A silly mistake turns into, “Why did I do that?” That thought turns into, “Why am so stupid?” We finally land on, “I’m an idiot.” An occurrence turns into identity. We are giving these negative thoughts meaning. When we dismiss these thoughts, just like any other insignificant thought we have, it loses its power.