‘Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them’ – Eckhart Tolle.
I recently read a Buddhist article that discussed the very concept of thoughts, awareness and attachment. As I was nearing the end of the piece my eyes scanned a line that resonated deeply and ever since I have had a completely different outlook on life. It said: ‘it isn’t your thoughts that make you unhappy, it is the attachment you decided to place on them.’
I think back to the many times I felt insecure or made a self-judgement that was completely misguided and realise it was all due to the fact that I had mentally grabbed a negative thought that was floating around and clung to it for dear life. When we dream, we are experiencing a flurry of thoughts and images…however when we wake, we don’t attach ourselves to them because we recognise they were just silly dreams. My question is…why don’t we do that when we are awake? Well, many yogis and deeply spiritual people do…they call it mindfulness meditation. If we can dismiss our unconscious thoughts when we dream, we should aim to dismiss our conscious thoughts while we are awake.
The Bhagavad Gita discusses our true identity and reiterates over and over that what we truly are is The Atma – ‘The Soul.’ Our physical body is just a shell and our thoughts swim along with the ego, therefore our mind isn’t who we are either and we certainly aren’t our thoughts. So where do we lie? We are what you would call ‘the distant observer…’
Our Atma or our Soul is the awareness or the observer behind our thoughts and actions both physically and mentally. Our Soul is completely devoid of the ego and exists in a realm of higher consciousness. Mindfulness meditation helps bring us closer to that higher plane of awareness and further away from attaching ourselves to the billions of egoic thoughts that float around our mind every single day.
I try to meditate once a day for 10-15 minutes. In that time, I focus on my breathing and allow the many sounds of nature to keep me in the present and relaxed. Since reading the Bhagavad Gita and various other Buddhist literature and texts I have now incorporated some visualisation into my practice. I try to imagine myself sitting comfortably – preferably in Lotus Pose – floating upwards towards my Soul and gently observing the various thoughts swimming below me. When a thought tries to carry me along its current, I realise that I have reached out a metaphorical hand and tried to attach myself to it. Without judgement, I visualise dropping the thought back down and continuing to rise ever higher, away from the ego. By the time the ten minutes is up, I feel an aura of love and peace surrounding me. This has been the most effective method of meditation for me so far. Everybody meditates differently with various techniques that work for them but if you are an over thinker like me, this is a good one to try.
Mindfulness meditation and thought awareness can be practiced every minute of every day. It isn’t just during Savasana or before you go to sleep. All day long, you can be the distant observer behind the thoughts that are begging for your attention. I find myself constantly catching that moment of attachment now and it is saving me a lot of time, stress and unnecessary self-judgement. Last weekend my yoga teacher helped align me so I could stabilise myself more in a certain posture and my first automatic thought was ‘you will never make it as a yoga teacher, you needed help to get such a simple pose right.’ First of all, I already have a streak of perfectionism and this is why yoga is so suited to people like me because us yogis have to continuously remind ourselves that yoga is about progress not perfection! And secondly, that thought that had instantly popped into my head a second after being adjusted was not real! I had attached myself to it and felt unhappy instead of gently observing that it was the ego feeling starved for attention. The real me, the Atma, knows I will be a wonderful yoga teacher because I have passion and am willing to learn. The ego doesn’t want to learn but then again the ego is not me so I will not attach myself to it.
If I can leave you with any words of wisdom or calm your racing mind – please remember that you are not your thoughts. You will have thoughts but you are not them and the sooner you become aware of your attachments to them, the sooner you will have inner peace…
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