How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

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nichiren-123
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How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by nichiren-123 » Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:09 pm

So I've been thinking about whether my thoughts are 'me' and have realised that they are impersonal and that the same goes for my feelings. My thoughts and feelings are beyond my control so there's no logic to saying "I thought of this idea" or "this is my idea" because in reality I did not choose to think or feel that way.

So I know all this in theory but I don't know how to go about rooting out the idea that it is 'me' in control and also, where I go from my current level of realisation?

Saengnapha
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by Saengnapha » Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:53 pm

nichiren-123 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:09 pm
So I've been thinking about whether my thoughts are 'me' and have realised that they are impersonal and that the same goes for my feelings. My thoughts and feelings are beyond my control so there's no logic to saying "I thought of this idea" or "this is my idea" because in reality I did not choose to think or feel that way.

So I know all this in theory but I don't know how to go about rooting out the idea that it is 'me' in control and also, where I go from my current level of realisation?
In a sense, you are your thoughts. How can you disassociate from them? They'll lock you up in a hospital room. :tongue:

nichiren-123
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by nichiren-123 » Fri Oct 20, 2017 1:46 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:53 pm
nichiren-123 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:09 pm
So I've been thinking about whether my thoughts are 'me' and have realised that they are impersonal and that the same goes for my feelings. My thoughts and feelings are beyond my control so there's no logic to saying "I thought of this idea" or "this is my idea" because in reality I did not choose to think or feel that way.

So I know all this in theory but I don't know how to go about rooting out the idea that it is 'me' in control and also, where I go from my current level of realisation?
In a sense, you are your thoughts. How can you disassociate from them? They'll lock you up in a hospital room. :tongue:
Yes, but im in the process of realising that the origin of these thoughts is not 'me', that they just 'happen'.

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Sam Vara
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:51 pm

nichiren-123 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:09 pm
So I've been thinking about whether my thoughts are 'me' and have realised that they are impersonal and that the same goes for my feelings. My thoughts and feelings are beyond my control so there's no logic to saying "I thought of this idea" or "this is my idea" because in reality I did not choose to think or feel that way.

So I know all this in theory but I don't know how to go about rooting out the idea that it is 'me' in control and also, where I go from my current level of realisation?
If you have realised this, is it you that has had this realisation? Are you in control of this thought? :tongue:

I like the idea of knowing something "in theory". My teacher made much of the distinction between understanding by means of the mind, versus just knowing or seeing it to be true. We can understand that an oven is hot, but once we touch it, we truly know or see that it is so, regardless of our intellectual understanding of the matter. My advice is very mild and tentative: just try seeing the impermanence of your thoughts, watching them arise and then pass away. You could try this for a formal period each day, maybe after your normal meditation.

Another teacher, a nun now living on her own, used to say "Don't ask 'What am I thinking?' Ask 'How am I thinking?' i.e. don't focus, as usual, on the content of the thoughts, but on the ongoing process of thinking and its apparent qualities. Is it slow, fast, afflictive, clear, confused, etc. I found this to be quite useful.

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bodom
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by bodom » Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:59 pm

I have always found Ajahn Sumedho's technique of listening to thoughts very helpful:
In opening the mind, or 'letting go', we bring attention to one point on just watching, or being the silent witness who is aware of what comes and goes. With this vipassana (insight) meditation, we're using the three characteristics of Anicca (change), dukkha (un-satisfactoriness), Anatta (not self) to observe mental and physical phenomena. We're freeing the mind from blindly repressing, so if we become obsessed with any trivial thoughts or fears, or doubts, worries or anger, we don't need to analyze it. We don't have to figure out why we have it, but just make it fully conscious.

If you're really frightened of something, consciously be frightened. Don't just back away from it, but notice that tendency to try to get rid of it. Bring up fully what you're frightened of, think it out quite deliberately, and listen to your thinking. This is not to analyze, but just to take fear to its absurd end, where it becomes so ridiculous you can start laughing at it. Listen to desire, the mad "I want this, I want that, I've got to have - I don't know what I'll do if I don't have this, and I want that...". Sometimes the mind can just scream away, "I want this!" - and you can listen to that.

I was reading about confrontations, where you scream at each other and that kind of thing, say all the repressed things in your mind; this is a kind of catharsis, but it lacks wise reflection. It lacks the skill of listening to that screaming as a condition, rather than just as a kind of 'letting oneself go', and saying what one really thinks. It lacks that steadiness of mind, which is willing to endure the most horrible thoughts. In this way, we're not believing that those are personal problems, but instead taking fear and anger, mentally, to an absurd position, to where they're just seen as a natural progression of thoughts. We're deliberately thinking all the things we're afraid of thinking, not just out of blindness, but actually watching and listening to them as conditions of the mind, rather than personal failures or problems.

So, in this practice now, we begin to let things go. You don't have to go round looking for particular things, but when things which you feel obsessed with keep arising, bothering you, and you're trying to get rid of them, then bring them up even more. Deliberately think them out and listen, like you're listening to someone talking on the other side of the fence, some gossipy old fish-wife. "We did this, and we did that, and then we did this and then we did that..." and this old lady just goes rambling on! Now, practice just listening to it here as a voice, rather than judging it, saying, "No, no, I hope that's not me, that's not my true nature," or trying to shut her up and saying, "Oh, you old bag, I wish you'd go away!" We all have that, even I have that tendency. It's just a condition of nature, isn't it? It's not a person. So, this nagging tendency in us - "I work so hard, nobody is ever grateful" - is a condition, not a person. Sometimes when you're grumpy, nobody can do anything right - even when they're doing it right, they're doing it wrong! That's another condition of the mind, it's not a person. The grumpiness, the grumpy state of mind is known as a condition: Anicca - it changes; dukkha - it is not satisfactory; Anatta - it is not a person. There's the fear of what others will think of you if you come in late: you've overslept, you come in, and then you start worrying about what everyone's thinking of you for coming in late - "They think I'm lazy". Worrying about what others think is a condition of the mind. Or we're always here on time, and somebody else comes in late, and we think, "They always come in late, can't they ever be on time!" That also is another condition of the mind.

I'm bringing this up into full consciousness, these trivial things, which you can just push aside because they are trivial, and one doesn't want to be bothered with the trivialities of life; but when we don't bother, then all that gets repressed, so it becomes a problem. We start feeling anxiety, feeling aversion to ourselves or to other people, or depressed; all this comes from refusing to allow conditions, trivialities, or horrible things to become conscious.

Then there is the doubting state of mind, never quite sure what to do: there's fear and doubt, uncertainty and hesitation. Deliberately bring up that state of never being sure, just to be relaxed with that state of where the mind is when you're not grasping hold of any particular thing. "What should I do, should I stay or should I go, should I do this or should I do that, should I do anapanasati or should I do vipassana?" Look at that. Ask yourself questions that can't be answered, like "Who am I?". Notice that empty space before you start thinking it - "who?" - just be alert, just close your eyes, and just before you think "who", just look, the mind's quite empty, isn't it? Then, "Who-am-I?", and then the space after the question mark. That thought comes and goes out of emptiness, doesn't it? When you're just caught in habitual thinking, you can't see the arising of thought, can you? You can't see, you can only catch thought after you realize you've been thinking; so start deliberately thinking, and catch the beginning of a thought, before you actually think it. You take deliberate thoughts like, "Who is the Buddha?" Deliberately think that, so that you see the beginning, the forming of a thought, and the end of it, and the space around it. You're looking at thought and concept in a perspective, rather than just reacting to them.

Say you're angry with somebody. You think, "That's what he said, he said that and he said this and then he did this and he didn't do that right, and he did that all wrong, he's so selfish... and then I remember what he did to so-and-so, and then..." One thing goes on to the next, doesn't it? You're just caught in this one thing going on to the next, motivated by aversion. So rather than just being caught in that whole stream of associated thoughts, concepts, deliberately think: "He is the most selfish person I have ever met." And then the ending, emptiness. "He is a rotten egg, a dirty rat, he did this and then he did that," and you can see, it's really funny, isn't it? When I first went to Wat Pah Pong, I used to have tremendous anger and aversion arise. I'd just feel so frustrated, sometimes because I never knew what was really happening, and I didn't want to have to conform so much as I had to there. I was just fuming. Ajahn Chah would be going on - he could give two hour talks in Lao - and I'd have a terrible pain in the knees. So I'd have those thoughts: "Why don't you ever stop talking? I though Dhamma was simple, why does he have to take two hours to say something?" I'd become very critical of everybody, and then I started reflecting on this and listening to myself, getting angry, being critical, being nasty, resenting, "I don't want this, I don't want that, I don't like this, I don't see why I have to sit here, I don't want to be bothered with this silly thing, I don't know...", on and on. And I kept thinking, "Is that a very nice person that's saying that? Is that what you want to be like, that thing that's always complaining and criticizing, finding fault, is that the kind of person you want to be?" "No! I don't want to be like that."

But I had to make it fully conscious to really see it, rather than believe in it. I felt very righteous within myself, and when you feel righteous, and indignant, and you're feeling that they're wrong, then you can easily believe those kinds of thoughts: "I see no need for this kind of thing, after all, the Buddha said... the Buddha would never have allowed this, the Buddha; I know Buddhism!" Bring it up into conscious form, where you can see it, make it absurd, and then you have a perspective on it and it gets quite amusing. You can see what comedy is about! We take ourselves so seriously, "I'm such an important person, my life is so terribly important, that I must be extremely serious about it at all moments. My problems are so important, so terribly important; I have to spend a lot of time with my problems because they're so important." One thinks of oneself somehow as very important, so then think it, deliberately think, "I'm a Very Important Person, my problems are very important and serious." When you're thinking that, it sounds funny, it sounds silly, because really, you realize you're not terribly important - none of us are. And the problems we make out of life are trivial things. Some people can ruin their whole lives by creating endless problems, and taking it all so seriously.

If you think of yourself as an important and serious person, then trivial things or foolish things are things that you don't want. If you want to be a good person, and a saintly one, then evil conditions are things that you have to repress out of consciousness. If you want to be a loving and generous type of being, then any type of meanness or jealousy or stinginess is something that you have to repress or annihilate in your mind. So whatever you are most afraid of in your life that you might really be, think it out, watch it. Make confessions: "I want to be a tyrant!" "I want to be a heroin smuggler!" "I want to be a member of the Mafia!" "I want to..." Whatever it is. We're not concerned with the quality of it any more, but the mere characteristic that it's an impermanent condition; it's unsatisfactory, because there's no point in it that can ever really satisfy you. It comes and it goes, and it's not self.
http://dhammatalks.net/Books3/Ajahn_Sum ... oughts.htm


:namaste:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With mindfulness immersed in the body
well established, restrained
with regard to the six media of contact,
always centered, the monk
can know Unbinding for himself.

- Ud 3.5


"Dont send the mind outside. Watch the mind right at the mind."

- Ajahn Dune Atulo

Saengnapha
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by Saengnapha » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:48 pm

nichiren-123 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 1:46 pm
Saengnapha wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:53 pm
nichiren-123 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:09 pm
So I've been thinking about whether my thoughts are 'me' and have realised that they are impersonal and that the same goes for my feelings. My thoughts and feelings are beyond my control so there's no logic to saying "I thought of this idea" or "this is my idea" because in reality I did not choose to think or feel that way.

So I know all this in theory but I don't know how to go about rooting out the idea that it is 'me' in control and also, where I go from my current level of realisation?
In a sense, you are your thoughts. How can you disassociate from them? They'll lock you up in a hospital room. :tongue:
Yes, but im in the process of realising that the origin of these thoughts is not 'me', that they just 'happen'.
If they are not yours, who else is thinking them? This strategy of telling yourself that thoughts just happen is part of the same thing. This is your conditioned mind thinking all of this stuff. That part of your thinking that says this isn't mine, is also part of this stream. When you begin to see it all without judging it, thinking more about it, maybe you can say that it will be the beginning of real insight.

Garrib
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by Garrib » Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:11 pm

True - thoughts related to Dhamma are also conditioned. I think this is an important point to appreciate, especially if you are trying to get into deep absorptions, or are nearing the end of the path (?) - but my understanding is that the Buddha did teach us to contemplate that thoughts (and indeed all phenomena) are impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self (not me, not mine, not what I am). This contemplation is not enlightenment itself; it is part of the (very much needed) raft that takes you to the other shore.
Last edited by Garrib on Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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cappuccino
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by cappuccino » Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:13 pm

nichiren-123 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:09 pm
I don't know how to go about rooting out the idea that it is 'me' in control and also, where I go from my current level of realisation?
Constantly see inconstancy.
Buddha has said, "As even a little excrement is of evil smell, I do not praise even the shortest spell of existence, be it no longer than a snap of the fingers."

JohnK
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by JohnK » Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:34 pm

nichiren-123 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:09 pm
So I know all this in theory but I don't know how to go about rooting out the idea that it is 'me' in control and also, where I go from my current level of realisation?
Ah, if only we could go from "in theory" to arahantship with a snap of the fingers!
I'm afraid the answer is the eightfold path!
I do think that every time one lets go of a thought to return to a meditation object, the identification loosens a bit. As awareness becomes more refined, the dukkha of this identification becomes more apparent and the mind becomes less enthralled; and seeing over and over again the insubstantiality and coming and going of thoughts. A process of getting the theory into the bones.
But even getting the theory is way more than most humans. Congrats with that.
"Why is it, Master Kaccana, that ascetics fight with ascetics?"
"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics" (AN 2: iv, 6, abridged).
Kindly eyes, not verbal daggers.

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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by Goofaholix » Fri Oct 20, 2017 7:26 pm

nichiren-123 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 1:46 pm
Yes, but im in the process of realising that the origin of these thoughts is not 'me', that they just 'happen'.
It sounds like you are on the right track then, just keep doing that, keep observing thought objectively noting it's impermanent and uncontrolled nature. It's the work of a lifetime.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

Garrib
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by Garrib » Fri Oct 20, 2017 7:49 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 7:26 pm


It sounds like you are on the right track then, just keep doing that, keep observing thought objectively noting it's impermanent and uncontrolled nature. It's the work of a lifetime.
:goodpost:

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Spiny Norman
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by Spiny Norman » Sat Oct 21, 2017 8:52 am

cappuccino wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:13 pm
nichiren-123 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:09 pm
I don't know how to go about rooting out the idea that it is 'me' in control and also, where I go from my current level of realisation?
Constantly see inconstancy.
That is what works best for me, noticing perpetual change, noticing how thoughts come and go, noticing them passing by, like birds in the sky.
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream."
Dairy Lama

Faelig
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by Faelig » Sat Oct 21, 2017 8:54 am

In my understanding, according to the suttas: develop and master the second jhana, then you will experience for yourself the complete cessation of thoughts (vitakka and vicara) and will come to the conclusion (not intellectually but experimentally) that they are not yours.

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L.N.
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by L.N. » Sat Oct 21, 2017 4:03 pm

You could try to identify the feeling associated with a thought, particularly if it is a recurrent thought. You could try to identify where in the body the feeling arises which seems to be associated with this thought, and when it fades away.

Also, you could try to identify thoughts that occur in the mind which you do not follow. You could try to note the fleeting thoughts which do not seem to catch your attention, and differentiate them from the thoughts which you grasp onto.

Thoughts, like feelings, have their function in the biological organism. They are part of this overall heap.
Sire patitthitā Buddhā
Dhammo ca tava locane
Sangho patitthitō tuiham
uresabba gunākaro


愿众佛坐在我的头顶, 佛法在我的眼中, 僧伽,功德的根源, 端坐在我的肩上。

dharmacorps
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by dharmacorps » Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:23 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu advocates viewing your thoughts as "alien". In that they aren't yours, they just arise and pass.

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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by alfa » Sun Oct 22, 2017 4:33 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 8:52 am
cappuccino wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:13 pm
nichiren-123 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:09 pm
I don't know how to go about rooting out the idea that it is 'me' in control and also, where I go from my current level of realisation?
Constantly see inconstancy.
That is what works best for me, noticing perpetual change, noticing how thoughts come and go, noticing them passing by, like birds in the sky.
As long as the thoughts just come and go, we can watch. It's not a problem. The problem is, some of these thoughts go on to create the self. And we realize this only after the self is created. So we can't even stop it beforehand.

paul
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by paul » Sun Oct 22, 2017 6:37 am

It's much easier to contemplate and develop the perception of impermanence in the external than it is internally, so that should be the starting point, then at a later stage transfer that strengthened perception to an internal focus. Note that the Buddha's original insight into impermanence, seeing old age , sickness and death in the street, was an externally focussed experience.

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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by JohnK » Sun Oct 22, 2017 2:43 pm

Just read Ud 4:1 Meghiya, thought it was relevant, putting the task in a broader context of practice. I've first copied the exclamation to the top to highlight that it is on topic (and quoted here is just the last portion of the sutta).
Little thoughts, subtle thoughts,
when followed, stir up the heart.
Not comprehending the thoughts of the heart,
one runs here & there,
the mind out of control.
But comprehending the thoughts of the heart,
one who is ardent, mindful,
restrains them.
When, followed, they stir up the heart,
one awakened
lets them go without trace.
..."Meghiya, in one whose awareness-release is still immature, these are the five qualities that bring it to maturity.

"Meghiya, when a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, it is to be expected that he will be virtuous, will dwell restrained in accordance with the Pāṭimokkha, consummate in his behavior & range of activity, and will train himself, having undertaken the training rules, seeing danger in the slightest faults.

"When a monk has admirable people as friends & colleagues, it is to be expected that he will get to hear at will, easily and without difficulty, talk that is truly sobering and conducive to the opening of awareness, i.e., talk on modesty, contentment, seclusion, non-entanglement, arousing persistence, virtue, concentration, discernment, release, and the knowledge & vision of release.

"When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, it is to be expected that he will keep his persistence aroused for abandoning unskillful qualities and for taking on skillful qualities — steadfast, solid in his effort, not shirking his duties with regard to skillful qualities.

"When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, it is to be expected that he will be discerning, endowed with the discernment relating to arising & passing away — noble, penetrating, leading to the right ending of stress.

"And furthermore, when the monk is established in these five qualities, there are four additional qualities he should develop: He should develop [contemplation of] the unattractive so as to abandon passion. He should develop good will so as to abandon ill will. He should develop mindfulness of in-&-out breathing so as to cut off thinking. He should develop the perception of inconstancy so as to uproot the conceit, 'I am.' [1] For a monk perceiving inconstancy, the perception of not-self is made steady. One perceiving not-self attains the uprooting of the conceit, 'I am' — unbinding right in the here-&-now."

Then, on realizing the significance of that, the Blessed One on that occasion exclaimed:

Little thoughts, subtle thoughts,
when followed, stir up the heart.
Not comprehending the thoughts of the heart,
one runs here & there,
the mind out of control.
But comprehending the thoughts of the heart,
one who is ardent, mindful,
restrains them.
When, followed, they stir up the heart,
one awakened
lets them go without trace.
"Why is it, Master Kaccana, that ascetics fight with ascetics?"
"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics" (AN 2: iv, 6, abridged).
Kindly eyes, not verbal daggers.

mal4mac
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by mal4mac » Sun Oct 29, 2017 10:07 am

nichiren-123 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:09 pm
So I've been thinking about whether my thoughts are 'me' and have realised that they are impersonal and that the same goes for my feelings. My thoughts and feelings are beyond my control so there's no logic to saying "I thought of this idea" or "this is my idea" because in reality I did not choose to think or feel that way.

So I know all this in theory but I don't know how to go about rooting out the idea that it is 'me' in control and also, where I go from my current level of realisation?
Are your thoughts and feelings beyond your control? If this is the case why follow the path? Following the path, seems to me, to be a way to gain (indirect) control of your thoughts and feelings, mainly to dissolve them to reduce suffering. Do you want to root out the "me" that is deciding to follow the path? Maybe this "me" is part of the raft, to be thrown away after crossing the stream?
- Mal

nichiren-123
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Re: How to stop associating yourself with your thoughts?

Post by nichiren-123 » Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:04 pm

mal4mac wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 10:07 am
nichiren-123 wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:09 pm
So I've been thinking about whether my thoughts are 'me' and have realised that they are impersonal and that the same goes for my feelings. My thoughts and feelings are beyond my control so there's no logic to saying "I thought of this idea" or "this is my idea" because in reality I did not choose to think or feel that way.

So I know all this in theory but I don't know how to go about rooting out the idea that it is 'me' in control and also, where I go from my current level of realisation?
Are your thoughts and feelings beyond your control? If this is the case why follow the path? Following the path, seems to me, to be a way to gain (indirect) control of your thoughts and feelings, mainly to dissolve them to reduce suffering. Do you want to root out the "me" that is deciding to follow the path? Maybe this "me" is part of the raft, to be thrown away after crossing the stream?
Well, the way I see it is that thoughts pop into your head without you choosing them. If you consider them 'yours' then you will interact with them. if you interact with your thoughts then they become stronger. If you don't interact with them - let them come and let them go without judging - then they lose their hold on you and eventually fade.
The important thing is that you realise they are beyond your control and therefore not 'yours', therefore there is no point letting them influence you.

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