“My thoughts are driving me crazy!” “If only I could unplug my mind, I would be happy.” Because our thoughts often overwhelm, confuse, frustrate and even seem to torture us, there are times we wish the mind had an OFF button. That if we could somehow turn “the noise machine in the head” off, we would have peace.
However, what the great sages and mystics have repeatedly told us throughout history is that the solution lies NOT in trying to get rid of our thoughts, but rather in stopping our habitual and robotic tendency to identify with them. This alone, says the great Indian Advaita master Nisargadatta, is what is responsible for our suffering:
“To myself, I am neither perceivable nor conceivable; there is nothing I can point out and say: ‘this I am.’ You identify yourself with everything so easily; I find it impossible. The feeling ‘I am not this or that, nor is anything mine’ is so strong in me that as soon as a thing or a thought appears, there comes at once the sense ‘this I am not.’” – Nisargadatta Maharaj
So, it turns out that it’s not the thought itself that is the cause of our unhappiness, but that we IDENTIFY with it. To identify with something means that you are claiming that IT is YOU. For example, like your picture on your passport or drivers license.
“Our self image is not stable, not reliable because it’s always changing.” – Mooji
However, no matter how good (or bad) the picture is, is it ever actually YOU? Are you literally that photo? No, you are not.
Likewise, your THOUGHTS are never the real YOU. Why? Because thoughts come and go, but you are always present. YOU are aware of thoughts, thoughts are not aware of you, or as Mooji says, “Thoughts report to you, you don’t report to thoughts.”
This is why believing our thoughts leads to suffering; because we are putting our attention/identity on a temporary and fleeting mental appearance. Because thoughts are inherently unstable, we feel unstable when we identify with them.
So what’s the alternative? Here it is: Stay home. Don’t leave your center. Don’t move. Be still. Let your attention merge into the silence. Zero point. Note that since you already are pure Consciousness, there can be no talk of becoming it. And since you already are it, there can be no talk of going somewhere to get it. There can only be the clear seeing, clear recognition of the light of Consciousness that is effortlessly aware of these words, but is not dependent on them in order to exist.
Simply put, thoughts need YOU to exist, but you do not need them. Therefore in order for them to become a full blown belief, they need your cooperation. Or more specifically, your energy. Why? Because they get the energy to become a belief from the only power source available: your ATTENTION! Stop giving your thoughts power (via your attention/interest) and what happens? Like a fan that is unplugged, the blades start to slow down and will eventually stop.
The thing is you can’t fake it. If you are still believing your thoughts, and thus suffering, it’s because you are interested in them at some level. Remember, we have been believing them for decades, so be patient with yourself; it can take a while for thoughts to lose their allure, their stickiness.
“I am not an object in Consciousness but its source, its Witness, pure shapeless Awareness.” –Nisargadatta Maharaj
I know from my own experience, as well as from talking with the people that come to my Santa Monica Eckhart Tolle meetup twice a month, that it is not easy to let go of our “personal” identity. After all, it’s all we’ve ever known for our entire lives. However, that’s exactly the point: it’s what you know, but it’s not what you ARE.
Many people sincerely desire freedom, but a part of them is afraid to completely let the silence have them. They imagine life will be boring or they will just sit on the couch eating junk food and watching TV all day. However, this story is just the mind’s feeble attempt to keep itself employed. The truth is the mind has no idea what it’s like to awaken for the simple reason that the present moment is timeless and thoughts take time. Thus, a thought can never awaken.
In a way, you are teaching your mind that it is okay to rest and that you will call on it if you require its services. Again, the mind is useful for practical and survival issues, but it makes a lousy boss. As Eckhart says, “The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.”
Why is it so hard to detach from our thoughts? Because we mistake them for who/what we are. It is how a parasite exists in nature. It tricks the host into thinking that it is part of itself, and so no alarm bells go off. If you think something is you than you simply accept it and the matter is closed.
But what we forget is that thoughts are made of language. And language must be learned—and learning takes time. And so, for the first few months of your existence, you had no awareness of thoughts and yet you existed perfectly well! This can mean only one thing: You are NOT your Thoughts!
However, simply agreeing with this statement doesn’t alleviate suffering. Why? Because the understanding is still intellectual, still conceptual. It must be seen directly, for oneself, in one’s own experience for the understanding to penetrate into one’s being and to be lived.
When we believe our thoughts we suffer. Peace happens spontaneously when the addiction to identifying with one’s thoughts is broken. When this happens, it can be discovered that Life does not need you to identify with thoughts in order for Life to function. In fact, the good news is that Existence functions even better without “you” in the way! In a way, the “I” is what blocks the natural flow and harmony of Life. In other words, the less “you” the more love.
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