Emotional maturity begins with knowing that thoughts aren’t actions. Having a bad thought isn’t the same as carrying it out. Guilt doesn’t recognize the difference.
Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi, Super Brain
Thoughts are a constant. All day long, thoughts arise with or without our permission. What do these thoughts say? Everything from ‘I think I’d like a piece of toast,’ or ‘gee, this car needs washing,’ to ‘my God, what a loser I am,’ ‘nobody really loves me,’ ‘I’ll never accomplish anything,’ ‘why can’t I just die already.’ When we try to change these thoughts–replace ‘what a loser I am,’ with ‘I’m a winner’–we’re fighting a losing battle. The ‘negative’ thoughts have the power of years of repetition, the force of habit, perhaps the voice of our father or our mother or some other authority figure from our childhood. They have been repeating in our minds perhaps for decades, unchallenged. Dropping one positive thought in the midst of this torrent of negativity can be almost laughably ineffective.
Of course we can learn how to speak more kindly to ourselves. As we become ever more conscious of our thinking processes, as we become ever more present to ourselves and our experience of life, we can begin to question whose voice this may be. Where did it come from? Is it speaking my truth, or the truth of someone who once had dominion over me? Does it have my best interests at heart? Has it ever changed, or has it been the same since forever? Then slowly, slowly, the tone of this voice can begin to shift, become more loving, more compassionate. This indeed is important work for each of us.
But what can I do today? Am I at the mercy of these thoughts until they change, or is there something else to be done?
We can remind ourselves that we are not our thoughts. We are not what our thoughts tell us about ourselves. What we are is something absolutely other than our thinking. What is this other thing? We can call it the truth of our being.
It is this truth of being we contact every time we meditate. It is this truth that we sense deep down within ourselves, the thing we know ourselves to be, in our best moments. We can call it soul, Spirit, Self or anything else that may work for us; but the truth of it is the truth of nature, and the truth of nature is that in this world there is a oneness that is perfect, pure, whole and complete. There is a unity of nature, of Spirit, that is undeniable, that is insisted upon by every major religion, and by every true spiritual tradition. This unity is the omnipresence of the divine. Meaning that God, perfection, is every place and every time. Always. With no exception. Not every place and every time except in me now.
If life is a oneness–perfect, whole and complete; and if I am, if I am of life; then I must, of necessity, be that oneness. I must be at-one-with this perfection of all that is. If I can remember this even for a moment, the absurdity of my negative thinking will be as clear to me as can be.
I have thoughts. I am not my thoughts. I am not even the thinker of these thoughts. What ‘I am,’ is what I am here to discover.
Today I will become aware of my thinking, and I will remind myself that I am something other than this thinking. I am something other than what this thinking tells me I am, or tells me to be. I will remember, simply, that I am.