“In their most common sense, the terms thought and thinking refer to conscious cognitive processes that can happen independently of sensory stimulation. Their most paradigmatic forms are judging, reasoning, concept formation, problem solving, and deliberation. But other mental processes, like considering an idea, memory, or imagination, are also often included.” source
This vanity website (let me just call it what it is) attempts to represent, to some degree, who I am, what I have done, and what I think about various topics as expressed in different forms such as written, spoken, images, etc. I’ve created it because I want to aggregate all the ghost in the www stuff about me and leave it around for my son in case he’s ever interested. That may sound silly but just having a voice mail from my mom that she left on my birthday the year she died brings me pleasure in times of need.
Something about me that touches every aspect of my life are the lessons I’ve learned from my Buddhist practices that started in 1985. I’m not good at conforming to dogma so I’ve never been a lasting member of any specific form of Buddhism. I started with Nichiren Buddhism but I was soon researching all types and taking pieces from here or there as suited my needs. I’ve been to multiple day meditation retreats via the Shambhala path and also the Omega Center in Rhinebeck, NY. And most recently I regularly participated in the goings on of Palpung Thubten Choling Tibetan Buddhist Monastery and Retreat Center in Wappingers Falls, NY. Some of my written hopes and dreams are enshrined in the walls of their most glorious Enlightenment Stupa for World Peace along with those of others who donated toward that cause.
I’m not participating in any group today but aspects from all the teachings I’ve learned benefit me when I remember to do them. Certain emotional events – like extreme happiness – can push me off my practices and I find that fascinating. Extreme happiness is more addictive than anything else I’ve ever experienced. But the reality is that it is not particularly helpful or good for me because it ends. Every emotional event ends as it transitions into something else. I like to believe I can keep an even keel through the various events of life but even after practicing for almost 40 years, and getting a tattoo for daily reminding – I still haven’t mastered it.
One of the most important things I’ve learned through the decades of practicing expanded self-awareness through meditation is that those thoughts and feelings, even the ones of extreme happiness, are not who I am. Likewise, emotional events to the other extreme are also not who I am.
It has been interesting to see science support the important fact that We Are Not Our Thoughts. For the longest time I only saw that in Buddhist stuff but more and more over the past few decades psychology has mainstreamed this extremely necessary reminder.
That might read like so much bullshit because as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “You are what you think all day long.”
And I believe that to be true. What you think is where your energy goes. Where your energy goes is where actions manifest. You can create your reality based on what you constantly contemplate. I don’t agree it happens to the extent Ester Hicks may have you believe (the woman behind the premises of the book and movie, The Secret) but I know that the things I have focused on with absolutely certainty of my ability to achieve them and willingness to achieve them has happened. Every time.
Since I have been contradictory here by suggesting that we’re not our thoughts AND our thoughts manifest into reality, let me further clarify.
I am not my thoughts, I am the observer of my thoughts.
When I meditate my goal is never to clear my mind because after all these decades I’ve learned that’s nearly impossible. I can and often do achieve lapses of time wherein no thoughts occur during both meditation practices and just going through my day but for the 10 to 20 minutes per day that I plunk myself down and meditate my goal is to observe my thoughts not obliterate them. It’s like sitting outside and watching the clouds drift by. I learn about myself by observing what’s flowing through my mind and any feelings that may be attached to those thoughts. I don’t judge them. They are what they are. What are they telling me about myself?
Observing thoughts and feelings, give me the power to control my mind which has been a lifelong goal of mine because I over-think things, I have lots of negative intrusive thoughts, and I don’t like to suffer. I might not have mastered it but I can tell I’m better than I was even a year ago and light years away from where I was as a 20 year old.
In researching this essay I came across many YouTubes that are aimed at children. I saw this morning on the news how many more kids (up like 60%) these days have negative thoughts, negative self-images, and contemplate suicide. I suppose that’s why videos like this one are so necessary:
Okay, so all that said, if we’re not our thoughts what are we? Who am I? That’s the sticky bit, isn’t it? And depending on where you ask it, you’ll get different responses. At church and it may be answered in some context of your soul. Ask a shrink and it may be how you choose to handle your thoughts and the choices you make. Ask your parent and they may answer, you are who you’ve always been. Your lover may say, you’re my soulmate.
I believe I am, like quantum physics theory suggests, a state of flowing, endless potential and possibilities. I steer myself based on being an observer of my thoughts, the consequential feelings associated to them, and the actions I take to constantly improve my quality of life based on the type of person I want to be and how I want to experience my life.
Expanded self-awareness meditation and journaling can be two of the most simple methods of observing your thoughts.
Perhaps you’re thinking: I know my thoughts are messed up but I’m powerless to change them. Right there in that response you can see the judging. Can’t do that. Observe them. Don’t judge them. Write them down to vent them, to look at them with a statistical eye – maybe have one journal for the vented, negative reflections and another one for everything in your life you have to be grateful about. Focus on the one you want more.
For me, the crazy thing is, instead of always wanting things better or happier which, in my heart I know is my goal, I sometimes I want to be gloomy and am satisfied with feeling miserable. That cracks me up. And as long as I don’t judge myself as being totally messed up because I am that way, I’m okay with it.