Have you ever wondered who that voice is inside your head? The one that is constantly chatting in the background? Well it’s my thoughts, of course. It’s me. I used to think that too. I used to think that I was my thoughts. The whole “I think, therefore I am” right?
But I have come to discover that I am not those thoughts that I think after all. Quite a frightening idea, really. Because if you are not your thoughts, then who are you? At the risk of feeling I was going all schizophrenic, I set out to explore who I truly was beyond this conceptualised self I had created.
The Four Fundamental Questions
The reason why I started to question whether my thoughts were truly me, was simply because I didn’t have control over them. They came and went as they pleased, often disturbing me at the most inconvenient times. I could never predict what I would be thinking, until the next thought emerged. Thoughts came in my mind and at times felt like a constant white noise, humming in the background that I just couldn’t seem to quiet down.
I then came across The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, that was able to bring clarity to the question of ‘who am I really, if I am not my thoughts’?
“You’ll soon realize: there is the voice, and here I am listening to it, watching it.
This I am realization,
this sense of your own presence,
is not a thought.
It arises from beyond the mind.”
– The Power of Now
The Observer of My Thoughts
The Power of Now helped me understand that I am the receiver and the observer of these thoughts – but not the actual thoughts themselves. But what does this really mean? And how can I use this information in practical everyday life? Whether they are mine or not, I still have to deal with the endless chatter in my mind.
We Decide The Meaning Thoughts Have
Well the good news is that the trick is not to control your thoughts in the first place. Thoughts are generally neutral. Sure they might be negative thoughts or positive thoughts, but ultimately we are in charge of the meaning we give to them.
We can decide if those negative thoughts, are indeed negative or if they serve a different purpose. Rather than suppressing the negative thoughts we can master acknowledging and observing them, rather than identifying with them. The more we give these negative thoughts a place, the easier it becomes to recognize them when they do arise and to give them less prominence in our mind.
The Untethered Soul
In The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer invites the reader to explore who it is they really are and to question whether this can be defined by the roles and identity that we have given ourselves, or if we are to look beyond these definitions.
He has come to the same conclusion that we are not the thoughts, the emotions or the labels we have given ourselves, but the consciousness who witnesses these occurrences.
you have a mental dialogue going on
inside your head that never stops.
It just keeps going and going.
Have you ever wondered why it talks in there?
How does it decide what to say and when to say it?
How much of what it says turns out to be true?
How much of what it says is even important? ”
—Michael A. Singer
The Mind’s Purpose
Taking this into consideration, he makes a case that if we want to live a life where our soul is free from daily disturbances, we must identify ourselves as the observer of the experience, rather than the experience itself. But does this then mean that the mind has no real usefulness, other than to supply us with endless thoughts?
Author Mary O’Malley answers this, by stating:
for manoeuvring through Life,
not to be in charge of it.
The mind is a wonderful servant,
but it is a horrible master.
Giving it the task of being in charge
of Life has created the world
of struggle that most people
live in all day long,
keeping them cut off from peace and joy.”
– Mary O’Malley
Understanding the Nature of the Mind
It is still an ongoing exercise, to recognize that I am not my thoughts. To give the stories that arise a place, by realizing they are part of the nature of the mind. But each time I catch myself noticing the chatter, I feel encouraged that I at least get to decide the meaning it gets.
I acknowledge the thoughts that are there and then continue with what I was doing. The more I learned to recognize that I am not my thoughts, the easier it gets to let the white noise fade into the background. I might not be able to control ‘the voice inside my head’, but at least I’m not controlled by it either.
you are aware of the thought but also of yourself
as the witness of the thought.
A new dimension of consciousness has come in.
As you listen to the thought,
you feel a conscious presence of your
deeper self behind or underneath the thought,
as it were. The thought then loses power
over you and quickly subsides,
because you are no longer energizing
the mind through identification with it.
This is the beginning of the end of
involuntary and compulsive thinking.
-The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle