The Power of Now: Are We Our Thoughts?
Eckhart Tolle, author of ‘The Power of Now’, said:
“To realise that you are not your thoughts is when you begin to awaken spiritually”.
So where do thoughts come from, why do they appear, and are they representative of the individual that they appear to? It is possible that we may never know exactly where thoughts come from, such is the complexity of the human brain. This may well come as a relief to anyone concerned that computers and ‘synthetic humans’ might one day be able to completely mimic a human mind, after all, if we ourselves do not fully understand the complex ‘wiring’ of our brains then presumably we cannot program machines to have fully functioning ‘human’ brains.
Similarly, why thoughts appear is also currently beyond our medical and scientific understanding. All we can say for now is that thoughts do indeed come and go from our conscience, seemingly randomly, and that how we respond to these thoughts is all that we can control. Some will be able to act on positive thoughts with confidence and dismiss unhelpful thoughts quickly, while others will treat positive thoughts with cynicism and suspicion and allow negative thoughts to have the upper hand. How we respond to thoughts is very much an individual characteristic and contributes a great deal to our personality profile.
It is easy to take the view that of course our thoughts represent ‘us’ as it is ‘us’ that the thoughts appear to. We hear the thoughts in our heads in our own voice, so surely they must represent the real ‘us’. But do they? How often have you had a dialogue with yourself where you debate an issue or wrestle with a dilemma? Chances are you hear the voice in your head loud and clear, but is there ever another quieter voice, from somewhere deeper in your mind? Dawn French, in one of her stage shows, refers to this smaller voice. She describes how in the beginning the voice is barely audible, but it is there, and that over time, however much we try to dismiss it, it gets louder and louder until we can ignore it no longer. She goes on to say that the voice has a name, and that the name is TRUTH. Eckhart Tolle would seem to have also had the same view when he wrote:
“ What a liberation to realise that ‘the voice in my head’ is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.”
This is particularly helpful to anyone who is ever troubled by thoughts, or words or images. We can take the view that we did not invite these thoughts into our conscience and therefore we can just let them go. They may well reappear, and we can again just let them go. No-one else can see or hear the thoughts. They only become tangible when we action them in some way. That is when we own them. Letting go of unhelpful thoughts can present a real challenge. Practises such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness are useful here. One Mindfulness technique is to simply ‘be in the moment’, that the here and now is all we know for sure that we have, so to concentrate on it and be fully aware of it – the sights, smells, sounds – the thought that we did not want will dissipate. Each time the unhelpful thought appears, repeat the exercise again and just ‘be in the moment’ and do not give the thought any energy at all. It will pass.
Our thoughts then do not in themselves have the power to define or control us. It is how we respond or react to the thoughts that gives them meaning. It is the voice below the thoughts that should be listened to and heeded. The one that comes through in the end when we say “deep down, I knew”. Connecting with this deeper level of our conscience is to start to find ourselves spiritually, our REAL self.
Some people are naturally good at being their real selves. They are the ones you go to when you need an honest opinion. Their ‘uncluttered’ mind seems to almost bypass the first thought phase where the ‘voice in the head’ is saying any number of things apart from the TRUTH. Maybe we have to locate our TRUTH voice and practise listening to it and actioning it before we can allow others to hear it. It is a big step for anyone who is not used to doing it. It feels scary, as if you are being heavy handed, when actually it is what we appreciate in others when we need some straight talking.
So how can Tolle’s philosophy help us in our work environment? Self sabotage is a recognised problem for many people. This is where an individual will overlook their strengths, or be unable to even identify them, and instead will think of all the reasons why they should not or could not do something. This is particularly prevalent when it comes to career progress. The inner voice will be saying things like ‘I don’t have the experience’, ‘I think it would be best if I spend another year consolidating’, ‘I don’t have the necessary skills’, ‘I’m not as good as you think I am’. But what is the deeper voice saying? Tune in and really listen…..is it saying ‘You should do this, you can do this, and you know you can’? Let the negative thoughts go, they are not the real you, only you know you have them. Listen to the spiritual self, who has belief in you and action those thoughts instead.