Thoughts arise in our minds without our conscious invention. They come on their own and they go on their own. The arising of thought happens much like our own breath; on its own! Our body breathes on its own without our say or command! When breathing we can modify it, meddle with it, hold it, or elongate it, but that is not our primary experience. If one were to hold their breath long enough, their body will resume breathing on its own eventually, with them conscious or even while unconscious, now that the intention to not breathe has been superceded by its natural process.
Byron Katie has poignantly stated that we are not the “doer” and when it comes to breath we are “being breathed.” Our thought processes are similar. Because we can engage in abstract thought, like consciously invoking a memory of a different time or place, we often think that we are “doing” it, but where did the underlying thought telling you to rustle up such a memory come from and how did you pick that particular one? I like the Buddhist concept of a “mindstream” as compared to the solidity of the concept of “mind.” The concept of “mindstream” elicits a sense of flow, flexibility, and dynamism inherent in the qualities of water. Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Everything that arises in our minds has a start point, a period of time that it abides, and a moment in which it ends. This is true also for everything else in life, which is called impermanence. Everything that we experience in our inner world or our outer world arises, abides for a time, and eventually dissolves and ceases to exist in that previous form. Thich Nhat Hahn, a wonderful Vietnamese Buddhist monk illustrates impermanence beautifully with a matchstick. The flame does not exist prior to the match being struck and yet once struck on the box a flame abides for a time and then dissolves. Knowing that this is the flow of life; arising, abiding, and ceasing, it helps us take a larger view. We can gain perspective, take a step back and “see the forest for the trees.”
This is important because often without conscious knowing we experience a lot of inner violence regarding what passes through our minds. We react fearfully and angrily at our thoughts. We argue internally. We suppress our feelings and try to punish ourselves for various thoughts. We try to eradicate certain feelings, thoughts, impulses, etc…and this hurts our own feelings, badly. By knowing that without reacting to our thoughts, our thoughts and feelings will come and go in their own time. This helps us maintain a stance of compassionate allowing.
A major concern is that we think that if we have certain thoughts we will act them out. The risk in acting out our thoughts happens when we FUSE with our thinking. We naturally, accidentally FUSE with many of our thoughts, which means; we believe what we think. There is a great ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) exercise that illustrates the concept of fusion beautifully. IF you hold your palms up side by side against your nose, that is a metaphor for the concept of fusion; you can’t see what’s in front of you and very little can be seen in your peripheral vision. That is what happens when we FUSE with a thought; thoughts like like “he’s so mean to me!” become our entire experience and we become very vulnerable to lashing out in anger. When fused, we can’t see or experience any other perspective, wisdom, or forms of knowing that are also flowing through our minds. Fusion prevents our consciousness from experiencing the natural spaciousness of our minds. Luckily, there’s DE-FUSION! The concept of DE-FUSION can be illustrated through slowly moving the palms of your hands (which were pressed up against your face) further and further away from your nose. You’ll notice that as you pull your palms away you can see more of the room, there is more space, more information that you can take in, much more perspective, you can see more clearly, and you are less tied to that singular experience of your hands. You may see that while part of you is having the thought “he’s so mean,” you can also notice other thoughts and insights simultaneously flowing through your mindstream like “he looks scared,” “I just said something insensitive to him, because I was afraid,” “perhaps he’s preoccupied,” and “I can ask him if he’s angry with me.” Suddenly, by practicing de-fusion the world and your mind is a bigger, clearer, more spacious, and friendlier place, and almost magically we have more options.
So how can you practice DE-FUSION you might ask? We practice mindfulness and meditation! A daily mindfulness and meditation practice is invaluable for getting to know your own mind and for gaining a more compassionate and panoramic experience of awareness. Mindfulness-based therapies, like ACT are also a very supportive adjunct to the process of internal inquiry and freeing up your heart and mind. Therapy can help you meet the frightening, confusing, and stuck places that we have relegated to the dark recesses of consciousness. It can help you recover the wisdom, strength, and deep knowing that we have accidentally constrained and polarized against. I help my clients with all of this. I help them learn and practice mindfulness, to de-fuse and take a wider view, learn about their own minds, to identify what really matters to them, to befriend themselves deeply, and to experience more of their own clarity, radiance, and goodness.
You can learn more by sending me an email or giving me a call. I offer a no-fee 15-minute phone consultation to answer any questions you might have and help you determine if working together would be a good fit. Click here to contact me. Lots of love to you.
I’ll leave you with a Rumi poem.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks