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How can I stop creating thoughts and just perceive my environment and focus my attention outwards?

Written by Jean Pool

The problem isn’t how to stop creating thoughts, but how to stop controlling thoughts. Why do you want to control your thoughts? This is an existential question that cannot be answered intellectually.

Answering intellectually doesn't resolve this problem.

You could be thinking a million miles a minute and your mind remains perfectly empty. In Zen this is known as thinking without thinking. A mind that remains perfectly empty even though you are thinking hard, feels like no-mind. It is quite appropriate to refer to such perfect emptiness, no centre as the “me”, as no-mind. This is because mind is its mental contents.

The paradox is thinking while not thinking. If mind is its mental contents and you are thinking hard, why does it feel as if your mind is empty? Why does it feel as if mind is not?

To understand why you want to control your thoughts and why you are controlling, editing out, filtering, your thoughts and experiences, you must understand authority. Who or what authority?

The authority is the idea, ideal, value or belief, that you take in, make your own, and from which you then operate. Taking in what you are reading here, making it your own, and operating from these ideas is not superior to taking in any other ideas, such as fundamentalist Christian ideas, making them your own, and operating from them. Both are authorities and both make for the universal phenomenon that all humans experience, of trying to control, filter and edit out what they think and experience.

If you pick up any idea and you operate from it, which really means you are identifying with certain ideas, while rejecting their opposites, the idea, the authority, becomes more important than Now. Now becomes a means to an end.

Say you are told to watch your breath in meditation. This idea, that you should watch your breath, relegates Now as a means to an end: watching the breath. The idea, “I must watch my breath”, becomes the centre of action, from which you watch your breath. Now you have to watch out, make sure that you aren't engaged in not watching your breath. Thus control, manipulation, editing out, and filtering of Now arises. Time is introduced by the authority. One day when I can watch my breath perfectly, I will be enlightened. Therefore there is manipulation, control, separation, contradiction, and conflict, inwardly and outwardly.

The authority - the idea or set of ideas from which you operate - creates a feature in the mind called polarity. The idea as an authority, contains a shadow, which is in opposition to this authority. Your identification with the authority makes you, the separate sense of self, with its shadow. Once the self is established, as this “I-ness”, separate from your “you-ness”, due to the embrace of authority, any authority, the self casts a shadow. This shadow must of course now be avoided, as it is anathema, in opposition, contradiction and conflict, to my idea, belief, ideology, value or utopia.

From this self arises the need to understand the subconscious and unconscious layers of the human mind: shadow work. The eminent psychiatrist Dr Carl Gustav Jung coined the term “shadow” for our age. He used to say, “Would you rather be whole or good? Being good is only one half of being whole”.

In the introduction to Debbie Ford’s beautiful, worthy book, “The dark side of the light chasers”, the following is penned which summarises the problem of the authority - the idea you take on as your own and from which you act:

“Shadow work has been around for the longest time. It is the very essence of the religious impulse, where traditionally we have sought a balance between the light and dark. Remember Lucifer, who at one time was the brightest of the angels? His fall is the temptation we all meet. We are continually called upon to be morally aware lest we come under the influence of the dark side.”

You don't need to be religious to come under the influence of the dark side. Doing something as innocuous as identifying with your job, and being proud of it, places you under the influence of the dark side. Picking up a single idea, something you read here, for instance, and making it your authority, thinking this is cool, I must apply it, creates the idea’s shadow, which you must therefore now avoid.

This problem, of the authority, is described in the allegorical story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis. The Bible doesn't say the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the centre of the Garden is evil, forbidden. What is forbidden is to eat from its fruit. The authority, the idea, thought, thinking really hard, is not problematic. The problem is picking up one or more ideas, identifying them with “I” who am reading this and thinking: “This is me. This is part of who I am”. From this arises the idea’s shadow: control, manipulation, judgment, condemnation, separation, disorder and conflict, inwardly and outwardly.

Once caught in the authority, the way back to the Tree of Life is guarded by the authority, which poses under the guise of good and wholesomeness. This is cherubim, the seemingly good angel - the authority, yet another idea you take on to protect and to preserve you, the sense of being a person, individual or personality - from harm. What is really happening, is that you are unknowingly blocking your own way back to the Tree of Life, which is your birthright. The Tree of Life is the direct knowledge, the experiencing, of your own immortality.

The way back to the Tree of Life doesn't lie through your mind. Having embraced any authority, the sense of I arises, which cannot extinguish itself. The very nature of I is to seek immortality. But immortality doesn't lie in I: it lies in the absence of I. I must perish on the Cross for all of humanity, in order to resurrect the awareness of immortality and sit at the right hand of the Father.

What can be done, then? Firstly, it is essential to understand that the human mind and thought, while pretty amazing and very useful, are not highest. Behind the human mind is awareness, the very awareness taking in these words. This awareness is highest: It is the image and likeness of God. Don't identify this awareness, who is looking, with any thought, such as body, mind, background, vocation, memories, personality or any authority (idea). In fact, the first way out is to separate them. Keep separating them, not intellectually, but by bringing attention back to who is looking, thinking and feeling, instead of paying attention to what is seen, thought and felt. It is entirely appropriate, and very useful, to engage yourself this way in meditation for a year or two. See what happens when you do.

The second way out, which is the opposite of what is said in the preceding paragraph, is to pay attention directly to every unpleasant emotion and unpleasant sensation. Try to bring every unpleasant emotion and sensation into clear awareness, while letting go of what is on your mind. This implies that you must be able to distinguish your emotions and unpleasant sensations, felt inside your body, below your neck, from what is going on upstairs, inside your head, as thought. If you cannot do this yet, then practice the first method, bringing attention back to awareness: who is looking, who is thinking, who is feeling, who is experiencing everything. Keep doing this till you are able to distinguish thoughts from reality.

It is easy enough to distinguish verbal thoughts from reality. However, what is poorly understood, and must be recognised directly by each person, are those non-verbal thoughts that arise from verbal thought and non-verbal cues in the environment. These arise automatically, without any intervention, inside the brain, being of a visual, image nature, masquerading as reality. These image complexes, which are intimately related to your brain's unique wiring, are superimposed on reality. It is like putting on a virtual headset. The result is the Fall: you toil by the sweat of your brow and you know birth and death. The result is that you don't experience the perfection of God's creation. What you experience instead, is what is not there, and not what is there.

So, you need to drop all authority, and you need to directly detect those thoughts in your own brain, that pose as reality. You must drop both.

The two techniques are also authorities. Of course. Therefore, they initially perpetuate the sense of self, separate from other selves. However, if you use them only to orient your attention in one of the two ways described, awareness will destroy these authorities too. You begin seeing and experiencing what your mind is not superimposing on reality. This must be experienced directly to be believed. You must undertake this journey for yourself. Each person must do so for herself, by herself. Nobody can do it for you. This journey is not through your mind: the authority.

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