Do we choose our thoughts?

Yes and no.

You can choose to reminisce about your childhood or past trips.  You can choose to imagine and dream about what you want to do in the future and plan trips.  There is no doubt that we do choose some of our thoughts.  However, there are times when we don’t choose our thoughts and they just happen.  Many are plagued by fear, worry, guilt, shame, etc…and no one chooses to put themselves through that kind of suffering.  They can’t help it, the thoughts just arise.

Thinking is much like breathing.  We can deliberately breathe in and breathe out…and thereby control our breathing.  However, most of the time, we are not trying to control our breathing and we are not even thinking about our breath…and yet we continue to breathe.  Breathing seems to happen to us.  However, there still is the ability to guide the breathing too.

Thought creates more thoughts.  If we hold onto certain thoughts long enough, they become a belief.  Beliefs are more durable and become the seed or foundation for later thoughts.  For example, if you were taught as a child that one should wait their turn in a line…with the thoughts and thinking being reinforced through repetition…it may now be a deeply held thought (a belief) that everyone should wait their turn in a line.

So if one  day someone were to cut in line in the bank, thoughts might instantly arise – “that isn’t fair…he shouldn’t cut in line!  What does he think he is doing!  How inconsiderate!  What a jerk!”  The thoughts happened reflexively (not really chosen), but they were created or founded upon the more deeply held thought/belief that everyone should wait their turn in line.  The unchosen thoughts were created by a more deeply held chosen thought (consciously or unconsciously chosen).

In this way, we do have the ability to change our thoughts by eliminating or changing the more deeply held thoughts/beliefs.  To change the deeply held beliefs, I do not suggest to try to reprogram yourself, use affirmation, or otherwise conduct egoic activities of trying to do something.  Instead, the light of awareness and consciousness is simply put on it.  Just look at it…deeply, questioningly, mindfully, and curiously looking for the roots and causes.  This is bringing unconscious programming into the conscious mind.  Often, once something is conscious…it changes.  Then you can also investigate the conscious belief and see that it is false and cease to believe it.

For example, if you are in line at a hospital…and someone cuts in line that is bleeding from gashes on the head and throat…you would not mind.  The rule “everyone should wait their turn in line” has exceptions.  Someone else may have cut in front of you in line at the bank, but there might be a good reason.  Furthermore, you don’t need to know the reason.  Also, can you really blame someone for not knowing better?  You would not blame a young child…but you would blame an adult…why?  He or she should know better?  But they don’t or they would not have done what they did…unless they had good reason.

These are all fictions of the mind…beliefs, rules, thoughts, etc.  You keep delving into it until the rule “everyone should wait their turn in line” is no longer believable and seems ridiculous to believe.  You may very well keep waiting your turn in lines – as it is a custom or social convention for politeness, fairness, and efficiency – but you would not suffer when someone does cut in lines in your presence.

In regards to suffering, I should mention that this kind of rule denies what is.  If someone cuts in line, that is what is…what will thinking about how this is not right or getting upset change the situation?  You are just making your own misery without affecting the situation.  There is no positive gain…just suffering.  Why do that to yourself?

If you delve into the fiction deeply enough, you may realize it is a fiction.  Understanding may arise.  Ignorance is dispelled and so the more deeply held thought (i.e. belief) is dispelled.  In no longer having that belief, the thoughts that would normally occur if someone cuts in front of you no longer occurs when someone does cut in front.  You have changed how you think…but you have not really chosen to think differently or done anything to try to think differently.  You simply looked at your thoughts and beliefs deeply/questioningly and that changed the reflexive thoughts by removing the beliefs and thoughts the reflexive thoughts were founded upon.

If you try to control or fight your thoughts, you just create more thoughts and more conflict.  This strengthens the sense of “me”.  You have no choice but to be aware when conscious…so just be aware of what is going on and see it for what it is.  Simply be aware of the thought that is causing a problem or suffering…see its roots and causes…question those roots and causes.  Delve into it…do not resist it.  Understanding is all that is needed.

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Modern-day house-holder yogi and lover of what-is; living in peace, contentment, and joy.