Do Your Thoughts Bother You?

Whether they be slightly bothersome thoughts from time to time or complete mind attacks that some people experience, thoughts can be one of the most, if not the most, powerful forces in our lives.

One of the most life-changing realisations I made a few years ago, with heavy influence from a short talk with Eckhart Tolle, was that the mind is a thought-producing machine. Creating thoughts is just what it does. Just as we wouldn’t get annoyed at a TV screen for playing a movie or a toaster for toasting our bread, it dawned on me that it makes no sense to get frustrated at the fact the mind produces thoughts. It’s just what it does.

Thoughts can’t be stopped, and nor do they need to be. Our problems begin when we give special attention to thoughts. When we want more of the ‘good’ thoughts, when we want less of the ‘bad’ thoughts. It is our involvement with them, not the thoughts themselves, that gives us all kinds of problems.

Meditation is a gateway to not only realising this for ourselves, but also freeing ourselves from it. We begin to distance ourselves from the turmoil that they generate; akin to watching traffic go by while we sit peacefully at the side of the road.

We begin to realise, gradually, that all thoughts, by their nature, are neutral. They are mere sounds that appear in consciousness, and then disappear again in front of us. Not too different from the sound of a car coming and going or a bird tweeting and then ceasing. 

Why is it easier to not get involved with the sounds outside of our body compared with the sounds that occur inside our body? Years of practice is one big reason. The other is identity. Most people in the world are at the complete mercy of their thoughts because they believe that their thoughts or the voice in their head is them talking, it is who they essentially are. 

“That was a really good thing I did there.” “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that”. “You’ve done it again haven’t you? You absolute moron”. 

We imbue meaning and significance to the thoughts, without ever investigating the “I” that we refer to. Who is that “I”, exactly? Are we a bundle of thoughts, or something else?

Anyone who has sat to meditate for just 5 minutes will be well aware that we don’t control or choose the thoughts that our mind produces, nor can we simply ‘stop’ at will. A commentary on this, a reference to a to-do list, an image of a memory from 5 years ago… In the same way that we don’t choose the dreams our mind creates at night. 

These are all hints that at the deepest level, the mind and its thoughts really have nothing to do with you. 

We can begin to see the thoughts come and we see them go; we remain. 

We can begin to sit and watch our thoughts and see how the mind churns out thoughts and images without any effort or input on our behalf. 

At first, seeing the turmoil that the mind creates on its own can be quite frightening. It’s really been doing that my whole life and I’ve been completely lost and wrapped up in everything it spews out the whole time? 

Thoughts can’t be stopped and don’t need to be stopped, it is the nature of the mind to create thoughts. Forget trying to control or manipulate them in any way. 

We only need the practice and courage of withdrawing our interest and involvement with them. Without interest, thoughts naturally begin to quieten on their own.