Negative Thinking — Awareness and Detachment – May 9 2018

There is a beautiful story: during the floods somebody saw a huge blanket floating in the river and jumped in to get it; after catching hold of the blanket and struggling with it, he could not come to the shore; his friends called and asked why he did not come to the shore; he replied that he could not come, so his friends told him to give up the blanket and come; he replied: “I want to give up the blanket but the blanket does not want to give me up, it’s not a blanket, it’s a bear.” I want to forget the thought but the thought does not want to forget me.
Meditation as Spiritual Culmination by Swami Sarvagatananda
 
Where do thoughts come from? All day long our mind is filled with thoughts–some we are choosing to have, some which come unbidden. Some which are helpful, some which cause us grief, pain, shame, anger.
 
Maharishi Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras, says that we take in thoughts throughout our life. They come in from the world and then we have them, whether we choose them or not. We cannot easily be rid of them, but we must find the way to be detached from them. Patanjali suggests we must objectify the thought and refuse to give it power. Refuse to go with it, refuse to struggle against it, refuse to identify with it, refuse to identify as its opposite.
 
In order to do this, I first must be aware of the thought. I must not pretend the negative thought is not there out of fear that I may be caught by it. The offending thought still is there regardless and it will be affecting me even though I’m ignoring it. By refusing to look at it, I am lending it power. I am saying it is more powerful than me.
 
So I don’t ignore the thought, but I don’t give it power. It comes back, again and again. Still I don’t give it power. I continue to let it go, let it go, let it go, and I come back to my senses. Come out of my thinking and into my body. When the thought intrudes again, I note it, but I don’t react to it. I don’t identify with it.
 
In truth, it is not a thought that is being bothersome to us. It is the upset being caused by a given thought. It is our reaction to the thought. I can’t control whether or not I have a particular thought. I can, however, control to what degree I’m going to be upset by the thought.
 
In the literature, the example is given by Sri Ramakrishna of a servant maid sweeping the road. A gentleman passing by tells her a boy from their village has passed away. Oh yes, he was a nice little boy she says, and continues sweeping. Now suppose it was her own son. She would have thrown down the broom and run into the house.
 
It’s the same boy. The difference is in the attachment or the non-attachment.
It is not the thoughts. It is what I take the thoughts to mean. And what I take the thoughts to mean is dependent entirely on the degree to which I am identified with those thoughts, or with what those thoughts might mean about me.
 
Today, if I am beset by thoughts or ideas that are upsetting to me, I will ask myself ‘who would I be without these thoughts? How would I feel without these thoughts? What would I give up by giving up these thoughts?
 
What am I that is beyond all these thoughts, and can I feel that part of me now?
Beware of Dog, Butler, Studio City, CA

All original material copyright © 2018 Jeff Kober