A popular notion among many spiritual seekers is that one will somehow finally defeat this terrible mind by regarding it as an ignorant troublemaker and trying not to think. But when will peace finally be gained by this attitude?
There’s a reason this approach doesn’t work. It doesn’t cancel the misidentification, or self-ignorance, that produces our deluded thinking. To regard our mind (intellect, thinking) as an ignorant troublemaker means we think it is something separate, a flawed creation, a rogue entity within us. This is a sad way to view our intellect or mind.
Our intellect is like a big and strong dog that only wants to help us. It barks a lot, runs in circles, and tries desperately to help us. Simplistic spiritual teachings urge us to ignore or starve the dog to weaken it. More subtle teachings show us how to befriend and properly instruct this dog, so that she or he will be our very best friend and companion.
We befriend the mind by first understanding that we are awareness. When we fully, clearly understand our self as awareness, then we also see our thoughts and our feelings as modulations of awareness — innocent, harmless and transparent processes.
We need certain thought processes to function in the world. And the great news is that, once we have understood our conscious nature and learned to live in open observing, the deluded aspect of thought will simply and steadily vanish.
As long as you remain at war with your mind, trying not to think, or regarding all knowledge and views as useless, you’re still stuck in separation. End the war by understanding you are awareness. When you appreciate your true nature, fear and worry disappear. Your thoughts then function serenely and efficiently according to the needs of the moment.
You Shape Your Thought
You are responsible for your thinking. Thought is the most powerful creative faculty of spirit. Every moment of the day, your thought can cast great shadows over everything, working its way to a downward spiral, or your thought can cast a benevolent light of patience, kindness and understanding on situations.
The idea that thoughts just happen is terribly simplistic. Thoughts just happened when you were 7 years old. It's not the same now. You have a great deal of conscious power to create and shape the quality of your thought.
Q: Yes, I agree completely. So why do you think so many who are into spiritual awakening and enlightenment get the notion that they don't have free will and that thoughts and other actions just happen to them?
It's because they've uncritically accepted a lot of half-truths and secondhand knowledge. For example a certain habit of thought will tend to repeat itself the more it is indulged, but that doesn't mean we can't question and change that habit. In fact every wisdom tradition urges us to inquire and contemplate. If these are not free volitional acts then they'd be impossible. You can't inquire if all thought is automatic. Unfortunately many teachings out there remain vague and contradictory.