The Thoughts We Choose

Katy and I often talk about the Spiraling nature of Insight on this path. That refers to how we are able to understand a lesson on one level of our life and then learn it again on a higher level. This pattern happens for the same lessons on and on again without end. This week I received a greater awareness of what it means to choose as it relates to identifying with thoughts. There are two things I had already come to terms with prior to now:

1) Choosing is not a One-Time occurrence.   Most people understand choices to simply be “I decide to do something, so I do it.” But in truth, decisions are made over and over again until we completely follow through in action. For example, I may choose to break down and eat some ice cream. But in order for that choice to take effect, I must first choose to go to the store, and while in the store choose again to purchase ice cream. I then have to choose to bring the ice cream home, and when I’m home I choose to lift the top, dip in my spoon and bring it to my mouth. It is not until the creamy goodness reaches my mouth that I have actually followed through on the choice. At any time in this scenario I could have came to my senses and said “nah, not gonna do it.” This goes for all of our choices, even the ones we think are long term commitments. I may have chosen to get married, but I have to choose every day to remain married and do the things necessary to make my marriage work.

2) Thoughts are unbidden. The vast majority of our thoughts (like 95%) come up for us without any effort on our part. As a matter of fact, thoughts come up despite any effort to prevent them from doing so. They are fundamental to our awareness and will refuse to be controlled. What is so damaging about this fact is  how we are inundated with messages from the outside world, telling us what to think.

“GO HERE, BUY THIS, LIKE THAT, BE HER, WANT HIM!” — signed, television-radio-internet-books-magazines-family-friends-sermons-everything

So our thoughts have become a dart board for the world where all it takes is the right commercial at the right time (last weekend it was Papa Johns for Katy and I) to get you to fall in line.

Now on some level I’ve always known that by not identifying with the thoughts I could avoid making mistakes like ordering pizza on a Saturday afternoon. But this week I while attending a Vedanta lecture it really hit me that, although the thought arises, I have not chosen it until I identify with it.

Up until the moment I give it life by claiming it as mine or me, it is only a random thought in the midst of a million other random thoughts. But even if I choose it in the moment…choosing is not a one-time occurrence…I can return the thought to its rightful place as Not-Me all the way up until I put the pizza in my mouth. It’s not me until I taste the delicious sauce and cheese on my tongue.

This kind of blows my mind and I don’t know if I’m communicating it correctly. But maybe you get what I’m talking about and have had similar insights…basically I learned this week that just because I have the thought, and have identified with the thought, I am free to not follow through with action.