Your Thoughts Are Not Yours
Have you heard of the term, “scissor statement?”
It describes “a statement that has great destructive power because it generates wildly divergent interpretations that fuel conflict and tear people apart.”
Today’s topic might be one of these. ✂️
In the last newsletter, I quickly went through some of the new connections I’ve made in my last silent retreat. What I didn’t describe was my personal experience. If you asked me directly, I might have given you a cagey answer, or redirected the topic to how the food was fantastic.
I rarely speak of my own experiences because I want to *calibrate* them by asking my teachers first. It’s something I take great care to do with my projects, even though they seem at times somewhat wild—I know enough to know I don’t know (and am alarmed by folks online who claim otherwise.)
However, my teachers rarely tell me that I’m “correct” or “incorrect,” because there are multiple paths depending on individuals’ circumstance. I also end up with many questions during a retreat, and with 15 minute practice discussion slots, can only address a few.
As a result, I veer towards being very conservative, to the point of omitting key realizations. But there’s one I haven’t been able to shake in wanting to tell you, yet I don’t quite know how.
So here’s the scissor statement ✂️: Most thoughts aren’t real and don’t belong to you. Even benign ones. Matthew Brensilver, another teacher from the Insight Meditation Center, says it poetically: thoughts are the exhaust from the engine of affect.
These statements may strike you as either profound or asinine. Are you are a thinky person like me? If so, you are more likely to puzzle over the statement, as it is the lens through which you navigate the world. You reason. You execute. You reflect through thinking some more.
In retreat settings, I can see through the absurdity of thoughts. For me*, my “inner voice” separates from my sense of self. Instead of me talking to myself, it seems more like auditory verbal hallucinations attributed to an external source. My inner voices no longer belong to me. They distort, they taunt, they express discontent.
But once the inner voices are no longer a part of me, I am able to drop “thinking” from the way I perceive the world. This leads to a fresh pathway to direct experience, and a sense of otherworldly joy can emerge.
After the retreat, the inner voices “merge back” into my sense of self and become “thoughts” again.
Sometimes(Chris Wong) asks me if what spiritual teachers say are meant to be taken literally. Buddhist teachers would say something like "your thoughts are not yours,” or “thinking is not the self.”
I thought they were figurative sayings. For me, retreat experiences have allowed me to see that they are literal, and freed me from their grasp, at least temporarily.
BUT, how does one…operate in the world, without relying on (a lot) of (reactive) thinking? This is my next phase of exploration. In the upcoming newsletter, I’ll dive into alternatives to thinking—tentatively titled “Feelings Beyond Emotions.” More scissor statements ahead! ✂️
*I am unsure whether this type of experience is unique to me or not, and am in the process of inquiring spiritual friends and teachers. Please do not “aim” to have this type of experience, as it may not be appropriate path.