I am not my thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, and experiences. I am not the content of my life. I am Life. I am the space in which all things happen. I am consciousness. I am the Now. I Am. Eckhart Tolle
Before understanding the nature of thought, I believed I was my thoughts.
I’ve come to learn that the brain is wired for survival, so it is always scanning for threats. The survival-based mind creates threats where there aren’t any. To a survival-focused brain, weight fluctuations, new technology, an eye roll of a spouse or partner can feel dangerous and threatening, without reflection, our reactiveness feels appropriate because of the outside event. Then we make up stories to justify our reactivity.
· A weight fluctuation can become a weight problem, lack of discipline, social rejection, a reason to judge or feel sorry for yourself.
· When survival gets in the picture of learning a new skill such as technology, it can become a story about you, how you are not enough, there is something wrong with you, and you will somehow be left behind because technology is taking over.
· The eye roll turns into a threat, how the relationship isn’t working and you will be abandoned. Or you will leave the relationship first – If there is abandoning, you will be the abandoner, not the abandoned.
Additionally, scientists believe the brain has a built-in negativity bias. Rick Hanson Ph.D., the author of Buddha Brain, says “the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.”
When I believed I was my thoughts, I saw myself as reactive, insecure, negative, and defensive. I made up stories to explain these traits.
I’m so thankful to learn that I am not my brain, I have one. And based on the wiring for survival and holding onto negative experiences, my brain is working quite well.
In Dr. Amy Johnson’s book, “Just A Thought”, she says we wear a helmet of thought and we forget we are wearing it. My helmet was full of thoughts about how I was insignificant, incapable, and insecure. I didn’t know I was wearing a helmet full of these thoughts, I thought this is who I was. I sought out to change it by creating significance, capability, and security.
Learning about the brain rather than trying to change it’s output is life changing. I’m not saying this dramatically, for me it is LIFE CHANGING.
Initially, I began to see that my thoughts were very repetitive and predictable. No matter how many books I read, hours I meditated, or counseling I sought, many of the same thoughts showed up again and again. My sweet brain made this a problem, when really it was valuable information. It showed me the nature of thought. Not my thoughts, all thought. This began to create a little space that in the past wasn’t possible because of the attachment to the content of my thoughts.
In time, I let go of making my thoughts so personal. I began to shift from believing the output to being a bit more skeptical, then later skillful about what is habitual thought versus what is true for me. I saw more and more, when I wasn’t caught up in my thinking, I felt peaceful, grounded and mostly content.
I came to see that I didn’t need to change any thoughts, I just needed to understand the nature of them. Changing my relationship to them, changes everything.
Also, I didn’t take other people’s thoughts so personally, I saw just like me and every human, they too get caught up in thinking. Other people’s thinking is never about me. It is always about them. Full stop.
It is so beneficial to come to understand this. It changes how you interact with the world. What I am most grateful for is exploring what is there when we are not caught up in thought. We get to ask this question with curiosity and in time maybe excitement. For me it feels like home, the place I longed to return when I felt far from it. It feels like connected and free at the same time.
When not caught up in my personal thinking, I get to actually practice mindfulness and be in the present moment. Not because my thinking has stopped, but because I am no longer its captive audience.
I sense a peaceful spaciousness that I can’t ever find through thinking’s strategies and ruminations.
This peaceful spaciousness is what I’ve always longed for and tried to achieve through controlled weight, technological skill, or relationships with others.
This peace is what I hope for others.