We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world. – Buddha
I already began laying out your Meditation Map, teaching you how to cultivate your own mindfulness meditation practice. But along the way, you’ll encounter barriers in the road so in this Part 2 of a 4 part series, we continue the inner journey — noticing all that arises upstairs in our thoughts. And over time, you’ll begin to learn that your thoughts are real but not true.
our hijacking thoughts
I sat down to write this blog post and — Wham! — I’m swimming in a Mexican cenote. The scene drifted into my plane of awareness without notice. Unexpectedly, my mind time traveled to the future, creating thoughts about an upcoming trip. I sat-with the pleasant image for a moment, then, settled into cycles of mindful breathing while focusing on my pen and paper. I repeated my gatha three times to anchor my awareness in the here-and-now. Then, another thought came in question form — What just happened?
Our minds hijack the present moment experience hundreds, maybe thousands of times a day. Often, we’re completely oblivious to this inner thought reel that arrests our capacity to be in true presence. Ever drive somewhere and after arriving at your destination, you ask “how the heck did I get here?” In this example, you’ve experienced the trance of your thoughts. Whether your memories of those thoughts from your drive are hazy or clear, either way, you were lost within the plot lines of your inner narrative. Your inner thought reel took you on a ride, through a drama where you were likely the subject of your own story.
Our thoughts create much of the suffering we experience daily including stress, anxiety and depression. If we can learn to become the external observer of these thoughts, we create space between the inner thought reel and the essence of who we are. We spend so much of our lives anticipating threat, we fall into default modes of reaction — and we can no longer decipher an attack from a normal inquiry. As one of my wise yoga instructors would gently say, “don’t anticipate, just be here.”
the illusion of separateness
The most fundamental sense of well-being derives from our conscious experience of love and belonging. When we identify as a separate self, we’re spinning a narrative that supports our difference from others, our individuality. A felt sense of separation breeds fear, clinging and aversion. Ask yourself — are there identities that you cling to in your life? Do you identify as outdoorsy, intellectual or extroverted? When we cling to a story about ourselves, we often want life to be different from the way it is, as we’re attempting to align our outer experiences with our inner identities. Our inner thought reels create plot lines starring our separate selves.
The Buddha taught us that human suffering emerges out of feeling separate from others. Sitting-with this sentiment opens me up to memories of traveling to Vietnam to visit my mother’s family. She grew up two hours South of Ho Chi Minh City in a small agricultural town known for their production of coconut products. Down a narrow dirt road lined with mango groves, rice paddies and water buffalo, my mother’s family resides together in a family compound of sorts. Primitive wooden structures with palm-thatched roofs house the hearts of my maternal tribe — the origins of my ancestry.
Unlike in Western society, there’s a distinctive sense of non-separation in Vietnam. I marvel at it each time I journey there for a visit. One uncle repairs bikes alongside the dirt path. Another tends the chickens, protecting them from wild dogs. My great aunt catches freshwater fish for supper. Another dries jasmine tea leaves to prepare for the Chinese New Year.
For them, a separate, isolated self is non-existent. Because without the money made from bike repairs, nourishment from the livestock and freshly dried tea, life cannot flow forward. But, through this shared sense of connected community, home is found in the heartspace between beings. The wholeness of humanity thrives at the forefront of their lives. And through this felt sense of oneness, the trance of my separate self melts away…and all that is left is love.
I invite you to find stillness in your life, creating space to look within. Give yourself permission to be held by stillness and silence to cultivate awareness of your own inner thought reel. And in turn, you might embark on a journey to shed your separate self and embrace oneness.
With Compassionate Peace,