Having spent a large portion of the last couple of months with my attention turned inward rather than outward, I have started to discover some incredible but also scary things that go on in the unobserved mind. As all great philosophies and ancient traditions point out, the only way to ‘cleanse’ the mind of all of the layers of rubbish that it has accumulated over the years is to shine the light of consciousness on it.
There is no need to go in there and fix anything. Bringing more thoughts, problems, judgements and control to the mind just doesn’t work. All that is required is for you to watch, and miraculously, the mind slowly begins to cleanse itself of its conditioning. This is the basis of self-inquiry.
Of all of the tricks of the ego that I have uncovered over the last few months, there is perhaps one that is the most subtle, which is why I felt compelled to share it with you here. Hopefully, bringing this illusion to light will be enough to stop you from falling into the trap that I have fallen into many times before.
That trap is simple but it is overlooked time and time again: mistaking a thought for a genuine feeling. Below you will find what it looks like in action (the arrow implies the interpretation). It is probably worth reading over the example a couple of times in order to get a true understanding of what is going on.
The thought “I feel uncomfortable thinking about this” arises —> I see that I am feeling uncomfortable thinking about this ❌
The thought “I feel uncomfortable thinking about this” arises —> I see that there is a thought that says “I feel uncomfortable thinking about this” ✅
In the first one, there is an entanglement with thoughts and feeling which undoubtedly, reinforce one another and you DO end up feeling uncomfortable.
In the second, a thought is seen to be a thought, and it passes like all the rest. No entanglement. No problem. Just another thing floating in and out of your awareness.
The first one is mischievous and subtle because it might be based on something that you felt uncomfortable about in the past, but not necessarily right now. It might have some historical backstory, which might make it easier to believe. It might even lead to more dialogue that reinforces its existence such as “I can’t believe that I am still hung up on this.” Just another thought. More ego. More false “I”.
See the trap, see the present thought without history, and it is nothing more than just another thought.
The mind is a machine. When it realises that you don’t pick up those thoughts anymore, it doesn’t give you them anymore. An ignored guest quickly leaves. Give the thoughts and feelings a 5-star service of belief and attention, and guess who is going to show up at your door again and again?