We sometimes become aware of what we are thinking about. Then we notice the randomness of our thought. We also notice how these random thoughts clutter our mind. We notice our mind, this thing we are taught to be so proud of, is a kind of clutter machine! It operates like a vacuum cleaner. Whatever is around, it sucks into itself. It is constantly filling itself up with stuff- with the dirt and dust it finds laying around on the floor. Anything it sees, hears, feels, or reads gets sucked in. The difference between the mind and a vacuum cleaner is that the vacuum cleaner never confuses itself with the dirt it picks up. It always remembers what it is. The mind forgets.
How does this happen? We become attached to the stuff we have picked up.
We treat our thoughts like my neighbor treats stray cats. When strays wander through her yard, she feeds them. They come back day after day. Eventually she thinks they are her cats. Then she starts to think that she is in those cats. She worries about them. She wonders where they have gone. When they are injured she takes them to the hospital. When they die, she grieves for them. If someone criticizes these cats, she feels personally insulted and defends them.
We treat our thoughts like my neighbor treats her cats. Thoughts wander through our minds. We feed them, nurture them and they return to us day after day. Eventually, we think they belong to us. They become so familiar we think they are us. Finally, they take us over. We even feel proud to belong to them. Our lives are run by these stray thoughts, by these dust particles. They are our masters and we their slaves. We follow them wherever they lead. We rarely question them.
When our thoughts are with us, we feel a certain kind of familiar comfort. We feel protected. We know who we are. When we speak, we speak from the sure knowledge that our thoughts are true. We don’t think “these are our thoughts”, after all, but rather, “this is the truth.” We have forgotten that they are as random as stray cats, that they are no more than particles of dust we have vacuumed up from the rugs of our life. We expect others to share our enthusiasm for our thoughts. It’s shocking to discover our friends have no interest! When they reject these thoughts, we are stunned! I can’t believe that my friend is treating my ideas as if they are smelly old cats!
Why do I care? Because my ideas have become my operating principles. They are my guiding lights. When they are cast aside, I think “you are casting me aside!” What an outrage!!! I can’t help myself. I must insist on the importance of my thoughts! I must insert them back into the conversation and get you to accept them. I forget that my ideas are just dust particles. They are just stray cats.
Have you ever wondered: “Why are my thoughts so important to me? Why do I care that my friend accepts my thoughts?” Have you ever wondered if your thoughts were running you?