This morning I decided to yoga-stretch these muscles and joints, slowly, mindfully. One breath per movement. This ten-minute routine brings joy when I consciously decide to do it. Although often the mind attempts to talk it away. Let’s not do it today, it advises, because it’s too boring, inconvenient or useless. Because it doesn’t feel good at first. It feels too effortful, even though it’s one of the slowest stretching routines on the planet.
In the middle of the downward dog or upward something-or-other, another thought attempted to take root. “I don’t know anything,” said the thought. Immediately a wave of complimentary emotion accompanied the thought, because that’s what emotion does when it thinks a thought is true. The emotion seemed to say, “Because you know nothing, you’re worthless, ridiculous, empty, pathetic and awful.”
If a person believes every thought is produced by an independent mind—and the thought defines who the person is and what she believes—then suffering often ensues. Thought becomes entangled in identity. What I think equals who I am. It’s a disastrous recipe for human suffering.
Somewhere in this journey of life dozens of kind guides pointed out the fallacy of this. Thoughts do not define us. Thoughts are not who we are. Thoughts come and go in the field of our awareness. Thoughts arise in us but exist more as kind guides or sadistic demons. Depending on our willingness to believe and identify, our struggles often arise and continue.
It’s possible to discover the truth of who we are at the ground of being. Not our outward labels of woman, man, mother, father, gay, straight, black, white, yellow or red. Not our clouds of feelings: happy, sad, angry, accepting, annoying, loving, hating, wondering. Not even the sensations arising that say we’re a separate mind in a separate body. Of course we’re this body: what else could we be?