A personal experience from listening to a guided meditation that helps us to break free from our thoughts.
A common phrase we often hear in the self-improvement world is “You are not your thoughts.” This idea, while straightforward, might be a little challenging to understand and apply. Recently, I embarked on a guided meditation that opened my eyes to this concept and the immense freedom it can bring.
Recognizing Thoughts as Separate Entities
In this particular meditation, I was led to see my thoughts as separate entities from my self. They floated around my mind, yes, but they didn’t define me. They were simply visitors coming and going, not permanent residents.
As I sat down, closed my eyes, and focused on my breathing, I began to notice these thoughts more. They would pop up, seemingly out of nowhere, about random things. Worries about the future, memories from the past, a grocery list that was hastily written and then forgotten.
But as I noticed them, I didn’t judge or engage with them. Instead, I acknowledged their existence, and then let them go, like leaves floating on a stream. This is the principle at the heart of mindfulness: we are not our thoughts, we are the observers of our thoughts.
In the words of Alan Watts, a well-known British philosopher:
“We seldom realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”
The Freedom of Dissociation
Once we begin to see our thoughts as separate, we begin to experience a profound sense of freedom. This freedom comes from no longer being beholden to our thoughts, from not letting them dictate our emotions or our actions.
For so long, I felt like a slave to my thoughts. If they were negative, I was negative. If they were anxious, I was anxious. But when I started to detach myself from them, I realized that my thoughts did not control me. They were not the boss of me. I was the boss of them.
This newfound freedom was liberating. I felt like a bird freed from a cage, like a kite cut from its string. My thoughts could no longer weigh me down. Instead, they simply passed by me, like clouds in the sky.
Alan Watts encapsulates this sentiment perfectly:
“A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So he loses touch with reality, and lives in a world of illusion.”
The Joy of Presence
Once I stopped being my thoughts, I was able to live more in the present moment. I was no longer trapped in my head, but rather living in the world. I could appreciate the beauty of a sunrise, the smell of fresh coffee, the sound of laughter. The world seemed brighter, more vibrant.
The joy I found in this present moment was immense. It was like I had been looking at the world through a foggy window, and someone had finally wiped it clean. Everything was clearer, crisper. And I was happier because of it.
In another wise saying, Alan Watts points out:
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
The journey to separate ourselves from our thoughts is not an easy one. It requires effort, patience, and practice. But the rewards are plentiful: freedom, joy, and a better understanding of ourselves. It’s a journey worth embarking on, a path worth following.
Embracing the wisdom of Alan Watts and the practice of mindfulness meditation has allowed me to separate my identity from my thoughts, giving me a newfound sense of peace and joy. I hope my journey can inspire you to do the same. After all, we are not our thoughts. We are so much more.