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Thoughts Without A Thinker

"You don't think thoughts, thoughts think you."

This is a statement I like to share with people that is often met with a look of utter confusion.

I will do my best to illustrate what, exactly, I mean when i say this.

Without conducting any kind of poll on the matter my assumption is that nine out of ten people (okay, ten out of ten) - if you stopped them on the street - would tell you that they are the thinker of their thoughts. Of course! Who else is thinking my thoughts? Their MINE aren't they?

I must admit for a long time I too was under the illusion that I was the author of my thoughts. Only when I began to take note of what was going on in my head that a few things began to appear crystal clear to me.

Here's the way I see it. Bear with me as I try to communicate this in the best way I know how.

Let's look at this  - Firstly, and most obviously, how do 'you' think? I mean, do you know how to do it, to stop it, to have only 'good thoughts'?  - Who exactly is in charge? You or the thoughts? It often felt to me like I was riding a wild bull that was bucking and kicking violently and I had to simply hang on for dear life, no matter how bumpy it might get. So began my vain attempt to stop thinking or control 'my' obsessive thought patterns that were beginning to take their toll on my well-being, both physically and mentally.

However hard I tried, I could not get rid of my thoughts. If anything, the more I tried the louder they became almost like I was poking at a caged animal with a stick, only serving to agitate it even more. And so eventually this led me to take a closer look to see if I might be missing something. Low and behold I was missing something that, it turned out, was the very crux of 'my' problem.

You see, what I noticed was that the 'thinker' was an impression left by a certain train of thought:  Almost like footprints in the snow. Thinking would be circling around whatever the theme may be, worry, anxiety, fear, control, self-loathing etc etc. This process would produce the sense of a 'someone' that was the thinker. Part of this felt sense would be the feeling that the thinker was in place prior to the thinking. In fact, the truth of it is that the thinking itself would conjure the image of a thinker at the end of the process. Basically, the thinker was a product of the thoughts, NOT the other way round as we tend to assume it to be.

If thoughts of desire arose the implied felt sense is of being a dissatisfied person or someone lacking that special something which was desired would seemingly appear. And so a sense of profound lack was always then seemingly present. Therefore, the drive to fulfill that desire in order to be satisfied (or simply 'Happy') would then seem the obvious course of action. Putting into place a sequence of events rooted in the belief in being the thinker. This domino effect would then reinforce the seeming doer (or thinker) of any subsequent actions or thoughts and so on..

Once in this endless loop it can be almost impossible to see a way out. Even the notion of a way out is the product of the belief of being the one 'in', so to speak. The quickest and most effective way 'out' is to recognize that you were never 'in' at all. That the one that wants to be free from thoughts is, in fact, a product of the thoughts one wants to be free from.

Put simply: You are always an after-thought. You are conjured at the end of a process but have the distinct feeling that you existed prior to that very process. What a trip huh!?

For me, taking the time to be with and see clearly 'my' own thoughts allowed me to see that they weren't mine at all. That 'I', as the thinker, was an illusion. This simple misconception brought me so much suffering and only when I could see it clearly did I begin to feel free from the vice-like grip of thought (more so being the thinker) and so afforded me some true peace of mind.

It appears to me that we are often so wrapped up in the content of 'our' thoughts that we pay little or no attention the the mechanics of thinking itself - the context if you will. That is where the cracks appear. That is where there they lose their bite. That is where there is some real tangible relief.
Until we are willing to go back to the very beginning, to see thoughts arising and to observe them we will remain under their spell and subject to all the suffering they may incur.

"As soon as you own 'your' thoughts, 'your' thoughts own you" - Paul Hedderman

~ Michael McCaffrey


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