Lately I’ve written much about the chaotic mind, the propensity we have to over-think and the inability so many of us have to escape the internal noise, get out of our thoughts and find our way back to a little tranquility. Or as Happy Gilmour calls it, our Happy Place. Being constantly trapped in our stinkin’ thinkin’ can be a ticket to depression, anxiety and stress… not to mention the possibility of those less-than-desirable decisions, behaviours and outcomes. If you’re a chronic over-thinker, you know exactly what I’m talking about. All too often our thinking gets in the way of our happiness and our peace of mind. And our career. And relationships. And potential. And health. And… the list goes on.
The realisation that “I am not my thoughts” can be a very liberating one for people who not only identify strongly with their thoughts, but actually become their thoughts. In case you’ve never been told, I’ll tell you now:
You are not your thoughts and your thoughts are not you.
Thought happens automatically, independently and continually, as do all of our internal processes – circulation, respiration, chemical reactions, sweating, vaso-constriction and dilation, digestion, healing… and many more. Yes we can choose what we do with, or about, our thoughts, and yes we can ‘manage’ our cerebral landscape to a point, but the human condition means that thoughts will constantly arrive in our head, like a never-ending stream of cars pulling into a petrol (gas) station. And naturally, many of those cars aren’t vehicles we wanna drive.
We’ve all had those completely weird “where-the-F-did-that-thought-come-from” moments. Surely you remember that time when you fantasized about killing your annoying neighbour because he played his music so loud… okay, maybe that was just me.
I knew I shouldn’t watch Dexter before bed.
Of course there is also conscious thinking on our behalf – which usually comes in the form of problem solving, strategic planning, memory recall and organisational thinking, but in truth, much of what happens at that gas station above our shoulders is – despite us.
It just happens. And happens. Like waves crashing on the beach.
Finding our Way to Consciousness
The beginning of consciousness and inner freedom is having an ‘awareness’ of our thoughts without necessarily being completely identified with them. Observing them without being ‘in’ them. The relevant picture I have in my mind is of me standing on one side of an old timber fence, with my arms and chin perched on the top. On the other side of the fence my thoughts parade by me like models on a catwalk. They are unaware of me but I can see them clearly. They are mine but they are not me.
In this place, I am merely an observer of my thoughts.
In this place I have the choice of investing time, energy and emotion into those thoughts… or not.
Once I become the observer and not the inhabitor of my thoughts, I have the ability to move from mental and emotional incarceration, to total freedom. Freedom to create an existence beyond the confines of my conditioning, my social programming, my fears and my (once) destructive thinking. Freedom to create an identity, reality and purpose beyond my chaotic mind. And freedom to discover who I am and what I can become, beyond my thoughts.
Feel free to borrow my fence.