You Are Not Your Thoughts

“Your circumstances may be uncongenial, but they shall not remain so if you only perceive an ideal and strive to reach it. You cannot travel within and stand still without.” — James Allen

What were you thinking a moment ago before reading this article? Was it a positive or disempowering thought? Can you recall the feelings generated by the thoughts. Were they pleasant, neutral or disagreeable?

If you can recognise the emotions produced by your thoughts, congratulations, you know how to ride the wave of a thought. What do I mean by that? If you observe a surfer on a wave, you’ll notice the wave will eventually turn into a large swell.

With enough momentum it surges into a larger wave, carrying the surfer to the shoreline. Thoughts come and go from our mind like ocean waves. New thoughts enter our stream of consciousness every second. This means thoughts don’t last, unless we direct our attention towards specific ones.

We live in the feelings of our thoughts, not the outside circumstances that influence them.

This was the theme espoused by author and philosopher Sydney Banks who taught the Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought. External conditions impose upon our thinking if we allow them to, however they produce an emotional response if the stimuli is strong enough.

Have you noticed that some days your thoughts produce negatives emotions while other days those same thoughts seem insignificant. Why? What has changed apart from the day?

We may react to our surroundings on those occasions for unknown reasons, i.e. tired, moody, hungry, etc. At that time we’re ruled by our thinking more so. Our mind doesn’t differentiate between a positive or negative thought.

It doesn’t register them in this manner — but we do, as the observer. When we label thoughts, we assign them importance over others, so they occupy space in our mind.

I want to be clear: You are not your thoughts, because they appear and dissolve from your mind and none are permanent.

They may be repeated often, but they are never permanent. To imply you are what you think is misleading, to the degree you might experience a positive thought one moment and a negative one the next.

If you are defined by that distinction, who are you according to this narrative? If we live in the feelings of our thoughts and experience an anxious thought, it doesn’t mean we’re an anxious person. It means we experienced a thought which produced anxiety in our body.

We may have an illuminating thought the next moment, which cancels the earlier one. There are exceptions to this of course, governed by a clinical diagnosis by a trained mental health professional.

Choose More Balanced Thoughts

The key to overcoming unpleasant thoughts is not to remove them from our mind, but to be mindful of them.

Approximately 50,000–70,000 thoughts pass through our mind every day. Thoughts flood our consciousness on a moment-to-moment basis, like a TV show streamed online. If thoughts flow into our consciousness, how can we reduce the impact of the negative ones?

By being mindful of disempowering thoughts, we bring them to the forefront of our mind and become conscious, rather than unconscious of them.

Unconscious thoughts are part of the landscape of our mind. Similar to streaming a TV show on a computer, we can be distracted by a pop-up window selling us a product or service.

Whilst our intention is to view the show, the pop up pulls us away from it. Unconscious thoughts have the same effect. They emerge from nowhere and can lead us to dark places if we’re unaware or unconscious to them.

The key is to be mindful of our conscious thoughts without invoking negative feelings or adding a narrative. We do this by witnessing them through the eyes of equanimity, instead of reacting with negative emotions or actions.

To ride the wave of positive thought, we first note the feelings produced in our body. We note our emotional response without becoming invested in them. Empowering thoughts have an enriching quality that are in harmony and balance.

Thoughts that produce an uncomfortable sensation, is our body’s way of showing us they are out of alignment. In this setting, the body is a feedback instrument informing us of our thinking.

Can you see the relationship between what you think and what you feel? Are you beginning to see how your body is an antenna for relaying the calibration of your thoughts?

We needn’t be attentive to every thought. Yet, if we’re aware how those thoughts generate positive or negative emotions, it’s possible to choose more balanced thoughts.

When an inspiring thought emerges, we move into our body and notice our emotional response. Is it in our chest, stomach or elsewhere? How does it feel? Is it a tingling sensation that radiates or does it move to other regions?

Meditation becomes a useful practice to allow us to sit with our thoughts in a quiet setting. Even as little as five minutes in silence helps us become acquainted with our thoughts, instead of passing through our mind without conscious awareness.

To ride the wave of a positive thought, we note the feelings they produce while shifting our awareness to them. In witnessing our thoughts, our awareness observes them thus diminishing their intensity. In time, we learn to create longer streams of positive thoughts, having become familiar with their ebb and flow.

Joseph A. Cornacchia