Don’t Listen to Your Thoughts

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The Buddha

Thoughts have an impressive ability to persuade you that they are necessary when the vast majority of them are useless at best, harmful at worst. They are likely the only voice inside your head, which is part of what makes them so convincing.

Especially with respect to specific knowledge, they seem essential. If you know something, then you can think it. But this observation actually shows how unnecessary thoughts are, except maybe for communicating with other people.

Think about something you are certain of — your name, your phone number, your home address, where you were born, your height and weight — were you thinking about any of those pieces of information before you thought of them, before you called them to mind? Likely not.

You carry all of that information silently somewhere about your being — in your head, maybe — and only think about it when you need to convey it to someone else, whether in speech or writing, matters not. We can call the place where knowledge resides silently “consciousness.”

There is the old story about the meditation master who heard that one of his students was learning to meditate so he could read other people’s minds. The master asked, “Why would you want to collect other people’s garbage?”

When you meditate, you are cultivating consciousness as the platform from which you can observe your thoughts and evaluate them. Unless you cling to one and blow it up into a huge story, which we tend to be very good at, thoughts are very ephemeral and do not stick around long. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you should just notice them and let them go.

You may start to notice that a lot of them are highly repetitive and only serve to reinforce your ego, which is not a good thing.

So meditate and notice your thoughts,but don’t listen to them.

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Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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