Distance from our thoughts can determine the depth of happiness in the present.
Thoughts are the building blocks of the inner world we relate to as the mind. They are in everyone’s daily experience, and cannot be stopped or easily controlled. Since thoughts are vehicles carrying information about meaningful moments of our life, we cannot do without them. There are times when we would like to do away with them especially when they persist in creating a rough mental environment. The relationship we have with our thoughts is an essential determining factor of our day to day happiness.
There is a diverse variety of thoughts that we encounter daily, and we cannot predict in what sequence they may arise. The contents of our thoughts serve many purposes such as sources of entertainment to ward off boredom or a distraction from the present when it seems unpleasant. Thoughts are a vital aspect of all our achievements, or they may contain information that may benefit us and help us realize our goals. Thoughts can also indirectly help us in our inner growth when we know how to utilize their presence and maintain a right relationship with them.
When streams of thoughts are particularly dense and packed with various types of information, they may be compared to heavy clouds. Just as a cloudy sky can completely shroud the sun, thoughts can cloud our clarity of perception. Thoughts cannot, however, dilute inner clarity that comes from conscious awareness that is pure. Deep within us, beyond the reach of thoughts, there is complete clarity which surfaces as an “aha” moment. Those lucid moments of crystal clear clarity may give us a deep insight into something which would not have otherwise come through the agency of thought.
These experiences are inexplicable and cannot be fully explained based on what we may have encountered in the past. Some may call it intuition. Thoughts follow a pattern, but intuition has no fixed pattern. Thoughts deal with what was and what will be, intuition concerns what is. Clarity becomes adulterated when our perception has to filter through a “cloudy” layer of thoughts within the mind. Picking bits and pieces of information off thoughts is like reading old newspaper clippings. They may or may not have relevance to the present. Thoughts are not the source of creativity, but they can help mold the energy of creativity into shapes and forms that can be perceived by the senses.
When thoughts are no longer a source of disturbance in the mind, awareness gets the freedom to reach a depth where there may be an experience in full clarity. First, we must recognize that thoughts are potential obstructions and there is something beyond our thoughts. To perceive space beyond our thoughts, we must begin to understand that there can be space between us and our thoughts, just as there is space between our eyes and the sky. Ordinarily, we don’t perceive that space as our awareness is intertwined with thoughts. Clouds can easily be seen from far away, but when we are in a cloud, such as when an airplane flies through a layer of clouds, we cannot see them. Similarly, when there is little or no distance between thoughts and our perception of them, we enter into their midst, and we risk being identified with thought.
Clouds hold rainwater, but we cannot see that water unless it falls as raindrops. Similarly, thoughts hold our awareness, unless the contents of thoughts and awareness separate we cannot experience being separate from our thoughts. When clouds release all their water as rain, they disappear. Similarly, when awareness is released from thoughts, thoughts and their contents disappear. We may experience an “inner shower” from the contents of our thoughts as awareness separates from thoughts, but that same awareness can “dry” those contents before we are affected by them. When thoughts disappear, through awareness, they never return. They will have completed their life cycle.
There are several thousand thoughts we encounter daily, just as the night sky where we see thousands of stars with our naked eye. To our perception, some thoughts come very close, and others seem quite distant and almost invisible. Our preconditioned likes and dislikes are like magnets which draw thoughts that we resonate with (either as liked or disliked) close to us. When thoughts come close, they may either enhance or deplete our inner peace. It is an important point to consider. In the very act of pushing away thoughts we don’t like, we bring them closer.
We can turn our perception of thoughts more uniform by diluting the power of accumulated likes and dislikes. Just as we don’t consider any of the stars in the night sky “personal and mine,” we can practice the same with thoughts. Because we like something, we cannot necessarily own that object. We can apply this principle to our thoughts. It is a practice in observing and letting go. We usually focus on letting go, but thoughts continue to remain sticky. When we focus instead on observing, letting go happens on its own. Just as there is enormous space between our eyes and the distant stars, through this process, we may begin to see vast expanse in what was previously a space crowded with thoughts. If we can expand our awareness even to the extent of that empty space in the mind, we would, in all likelihood see the world very differently.
One way to approach creating that space between our power of perception and our thoughts is considering them as changing phenomena that can be observed and the perceiver, which is us, as static and unchanging. When the perceptive power does not move along with thoughts, it becomes easier to see them come and go. When we look at the night sky, relative to our position, the entire field of stars is moving. This movement may be gradual and not apparent from moment to moment. Similarly, the field of thought is also gradually shifting and moving from time to time. We may not have the same types of thoughts we had as children, for example. When we understand and experience the static and dynamic relationship between awareness and thoughts, the separation between the two will gradually unfold.
Being the observer requires us to remain alert. The field of thought is the proving ground where our alertness is tested every minute. Just as an eagle soaring high above in the sky spots and tracks its prey and waits for an opportune moment to swoop down, the moment our alertness slips, thoughts quickly descend and grab our awareness. The content of our thoughts plus the individual flavor rendered by the ego becomes a potent combination that creates a unique and compelling inner experience as soon as our awareness gets involved. The variable in this mix, which is the contents of our thoughts is unpredictable and changing.
Until we realize the value of awareness in bringing inner equilibrium, we freely gift it away to thoughts. Once we begin to understand its importance, we begin to claw it back from thoughts by remaining more watchful and alert. Thoughts will continue their natural cycle of forming, manifesting and dissolving. We enter that cycle as long as our awareness remains unconscious. When we are conscious, aware and alert, no thought can disturb our inner peace or distract us from the present.