I Am Not My Thinking – November 15 2016

Everything changes. That’s the universal nature of outer reality and inner experience. Therefore, there’s no end to disturbed equilibria as long as you live. But to help you survive, your brain keeps trying to stop the river, struggling to hold dynamic systems in place, to find fixed patterns in this variable world, and to construct permanent plans for changing conditions. Consequently, your brain is forever chasing after the moment that has just passed, trying to understand and control it.
 
It’s as if we live at the edge of a waterfall, with each moment rushing at us–experienced only and always now at the lip–and then zip, it’s over the edge and gone. But the brain is forever clutching at what has just surged by.
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., 
Buddha’s Brain: the Practical Neuroscience 
of Happiness, Love & Wisdom
 
Meditation is not about stilling one’s thoughts. The brain produces thoughts continually, with or without one’s permission. Of course in meditation there are moments of absolute silence in the mind, and of course these moments are wonderful. But in true meditation, the benefits arrives whether or not the mind becomes stilled.
 
What are the benefits?
•a download of bliss chemistry
•a deep and profound rest (from two to five times more restful than any deep sleep)
•a feeling of peace, comfort and ease
•an experience of self that is absolutely other than one’s thoughts, feelings or body sensations

Brain scientists more and more are able to show us minutely and specifically how our mind works; and what we are learning is that our brain more often than not has a life of its own, regardless of how uncomfortable it may make the owner of the brain. 
 
Our brain tries to find the unchanging in a world that is ever-changing. It tries to make sense of body sensations and feelings we are having by telling us stories, sometimes founded in reality, sometimes made up whole cloth. It sees the world as filled with potential threats and potential places for us to take advantage, forever throwing the body into fight or flight, or want and need. It divides groups of people in our life into those who matter and those who don’t, those who can help us and those who can’t, those whose approval we need and those whose approval or disapproval doesn’t matter. And as seen above, it forever is trying to make sense of what has just occurred in such a way as to nail it down into something solid, pulling us out of the present moment, out of the only place we ever are able to find peace and balance in the movement that is our life.
 
Are any of these mental processes useful? Yes, of course; but when I am identified as my thinking, the useful thoughts are jumbled in with all the useless thoughts and difficult if not impossible to sort out.
 
When I begin to know myself as something other than my thinking, this changes. The mind begins to quiet its constant noise. I begin to be able to see the thinking processes for what they actually are, no longer at the mercy of them but actually able to pick and choose the ones worth paying attention to. And most importantly, when I can know myself as other than my thinking, regardless of how much clutter there may be in my mind, ‘I’ am still okay. I can be at peace no matter the situation. I can feel grounded even when my mind is not. I can know the truth of life–that I am at one with the world and everyone in it, upheld by the whole of consciousness in every moment–no matter what the negative voices in my head may be telling me.
 
We are meant to enjoy life. As a brain being carted around by a body, this is not possible. As a unique expression of consciousness that happens to be having a physical, emotional and mental experience of the world, enjoyment is eminently available.
 
Meditate. Join the party. Give the brain a rest. If it’s anything like mine, it could use it.
 
Today I will meditate, morning and evening, and in between, I will remind myself whenever I can that my thoughts will be just fine without my attention to them, and that the world is filled with much more useful information just waiting for me to notice.
Seated Buddha Amitabha, Java, 9th Century,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
All original material copyright © 2016 Jeff Kober