Awaken The World Through Enlightened Media

Featured Posts

Is It True that We Are What We Think? (What’s your walk-around mantra?) Donna Quesada

by  Donna Quesada: Buddha taught that whatever we habitually focus our thoughts on will color our awareness and begin to shape the way we see reality.

Donna Quesada 520But in Zen, the school of Buddhism that developed later in China, we are simultaneously told that you are not your thoughts. My first Zen teacher used to liken our mind to a revolving door… Thoughts will come and thoughts will go. They are always in movement, coming and going continuously. But who is it that is thinking these thoughts?

There is no contradiction between the two ideas. Thoughts will indeed come and go easily. But when we get “stuck”on certain thoughts, and fixed in a certain way of thinking, it tends to define the way we see everything.

Said simply, thoughts dont identify us if we let them come and go—if we dont resist them, they will settle. Another early Zen teacher of mine said that thoughts were like secretions… Thats how insubstantial they are.

Modern western psychology utilizes something of a Zen approach, with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In CBT, its understood that we cannot stop our thoughts, so the best we can do is not to identify with them. This works well for phobias and to some extent, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

The idea is that, instead of identifying with the troubling thoughts, we are taught new behaviors, calledexposures,”that are meant to recondition our behavior around the thing that is feared. In other words, we engage in the uncomfortable activity in baby steps, thus learning to walk in new shoes.” Then the mind comes to understand that the new shoes arent so threatening.

As a simplified example, someone who is afraid of social situations and is paralyzed by fearful thoughts about being negatively judged, would deliberately put themselves in small gatherings for limited amounts of time, after which positive elements of the experience would be acknowledged.

In my Zen training, my teacher used to encourage us to act as if,” which is a good equivalent to this approach. What he meant was for us to do the thing anyway, even when we were afraid, because he knew that when you walkdifferently, you learn to think differently, and eventually you come to feel differently around the feared event. Thats how emotions are shaped… by our reactions to the event, not by the event itself.

As someone who has suffered from OCD, and who has both been trained in the Zen tradition, and has tried CBT techniques, I can attest to the similarity in approach.

So, do our thoughts create reality, or are we not our thoughts? Both. It’s like light… Now its a wave, now its a particle. It depends on how we see them and how we work with them.

Thoughts will settle, if we let them… But most of the time we dont. We get stuck. Or to use Buddha’s language, we attach to them. And then its impossible to enjoy what were doing in the here and now, when we are consumed by the internal battlefield going on in our head.

Buddha, authentic child of India that he was, comes from a land that has a 2000 year history of working with thoughts. Paranjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, spoke of what he called “counteracting thoughts.” Rather than passively letting them go, we would replace Why did he say that to me… he must not like me,” with It wasn’t about me.” Instead of Oh no, Im going to get sick.” We can say, at this moment I feel great.” For Patanjali, it all comes back to the question of What kinds of thoughts do we want to cultivate?”

If we do this consciously and consistently, then we begin to develop a momentum around the new positive pattern.

I like this more active approach… it always felt more constructive and creative to me. And, it’s fun to turn it into a walk-around” mantra… something like At this moment, I feel fine!” And in this way, we do create the world with our thoughts, as Buddha said in the Dhammapada. Whatever we give attention to, thrives. What’s your walk-around mantra?


Related Posts

Get your Life Transforming Become Unshakeable Free Ticket Here