Mental Mirages: The Suffering Cost of Believing Your Thinking


There are countless benefits to meditation retreat, but today I’d like to focus on one in particular: The benefit of learning how to let go of destructive and unintentional thinking. Why learn this? Because each of us has paid and continues to pay an enormous toll in suffering – there is a huge cost in believing and attaching to what we think is true and factual. Consider these words:

The price of anything is the amount of life you’d be willing to exchange for it. – Thoreau

How much of your life do you think has been spent believing your thoughts about others, yourself and the world as being true and factual? How much has this cost you?

While I’m not arguing that thinking is bad, because it isn’t – I would encourage you to realize that when we experience the stress and suffering of destructive emotions such as anger, guilt and anxiety it is indeed because we are attached to our thinking. That anger is always based on the thought-demand that reality be different than it is. That anxiety is always based on thought-worrying about the future. Ruminating – thoughts on spin cycle – is a clear cut case of not knowing how to let go of our own thoughts and unintentionally driving ourselves mad.

A major aspect of mindfulness meditation in particular is training and discovering how to let certain thoughts come and go without judgment or attachment; Consequently we learn how not to experience the anguish of destructive emotions that come part and parcel with these disturbing thoughts. In essence, through mindfulness meditation we discover how to reclaim or even discover how to create peace and sanity in our lives through not attaching to destructive and stressful forms of thinking. 

There is no question that much of our stress is perpetuated by our own thinking in time contexts that are no longer happening or may never happen: the past and future. Ask yourself, what percentage of your life’s thinking is actually about what’s taking place in the present? It’s a simple question designed for you to realize how much of your life is spent in pure fantasy, fictional bubble worlds that come laden with destructive emotions such as sadness and depression. We train in mindfulness meditation to free ourselves from the suffering of these fabricated non-present realities. Why suffer for things that aren’t happening?

Finally I would ask you to question what exactly are you suffering for when you suffer for thinking? Forgetting the content of your thinking for a moment and focus on what exactly is the nature of a thought? Remembering that you’d be willing to suffer for this – what is it exactly? A brief electrical firing of worrying for the future? A synaptic flash of memory of past events? Where exactly is this thing that you’d be so unconsciously willing to suffer for? Try finding it or finding any intrinsic quality that it may have before living your life unnecessarily disturbing yourself silly over what may be much to do about nothing. Does it have a color, a shape – any essence at all? Can you even find its location? And if you say that it’s all in your head, isn’t that all you really need to know?

If you say that sitting still and being silent for ten days or thirty days would drive you crazy are you listening to yourself? What exactly would drive you crazy? Your own mind? Thoughts of the past and future? But it’s this very mind that you walk around with, drive with, raise a family with…but you don’t know how to let go of thoughts about the past and future? But it’s these very things that dominate your day to day life and bring enormous stress. What we’re dealing with in this training is a matter of compassion for yourself and others – to no longer unnecessarily subject yourself to the pain of non-volitional thinking.

 And I would finally ask you to ask yourself – what percentage of your thoughts each day did you intend on having? It’s about as relevant and practical of a question as one could hope for. 
Imagine this: imagine being in a relationship with someone like this – who has largely unintentional flights of fancy with emotions attached. Now imagine two people like that. Now imagine you’re one of them. Or imagine that you’re an employer who’s employees are paid $100k a year – and most of their time is spent thinking about anything other than their much does that cost you, the business? Just how much incessant and unnecessary stress and suffering is enough before we decide to reclaim our sanity?

In conclusion, think differently for a moment. Imagine that you did sit silently still for a month and you discovered the peace of letting unintentional and destructive thoughts come and go without attachment. Would you ever want to return to the previous mode and way of being? Believing everything you think? And that’s all you need to know. 

May you be happy, well, safe, peaceful and at ease🌷

Published by

Michael Gregory

Former investment banker turned monk-counselor. Writer, Speaker and Teacher. Encourages others to realize their highest potential.

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