Thoughts as TV channels – a letter

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This is a response to a letter I received from a friend that I think it covers ideas that may be of interest to several people, not only to my friend.

I want to thank you for a wonderful thing that you made me understand during the classes: that it is only my perspective, my branding over things that makes me feel the way I feel; but it takes practice and learning and dedication to actually be aware of that. 

Carlos: Yes, it does. We spent too many years believing that we are the victims of the world. We are not.
If we are victims at all, we are the victims of our own thought processes…but we are the victims only while we don’t know it. The moment we start to awaken to it, we stop been the victims because choosing what to think is one of the very few things we may have control over. But yes, it takes practice and lots of dedication.

Still I find it difficult sometimes not to be impulsive or react as “under attack”…

Carlos: These reactions are very deep ingrained in our psychology, and they are very difficult to deal with. They usually have very little to do with what happens in the moment, but all to do with our past. Don’t worry about them. Just forgive yourself as soon as you can, say you are sorry as soon as you are able to if you have hurt anybody and just keep going.

It is very difficult to work directly on these deep reactions, but you can do a lot of work around them. It is our tendency to focus on big things, things that usually are very difficult to change, instead of dealing with the smaller things, which actually are what most of our life is made of. If you take a day or a week of your life, you will see that these ‘impulsive reactions’ are a very small part of that day or week. Instead of that, focus on your every day thoughts, emotions and reactions. They are the key to our possibilities.

…and I would like to ask you more about how to deal with bad, damaging ideas that I make in my head; 

Carlos: The main way to deal with our thoughts is being aware of them. To study them, to objectify them, to see that they are NOT ME, but that they are ‘an energy’ that appears in my head and as such I can decide if I want them there or not. You can try to see your thoughts as channels on the TV. Just because they are there it does not mean you need to watch them. You turn on the TV and a channel appears. You look at it for a few seconds and then you decide, based on your intelligence, if this channel is what you want to see or not. It’s the same with thoughts. A thought, or a group of thoughts, appears in your head. You find a quiet moment and you look at it/them and based on your intelligence you see if they are the kind of thoughts that are telling the truth about a certain situation or not. And if they are not you simply stop feeding it. It does not mean the thought is going to disappear, but thoughts are feed by our attention and when attention is taken away from them they eventually collapse, or at least they lose much of their power.

Socrates said 2500 years ago: ‘the unexamined life is to worth living’. And our life is not other than the thoughts we have. So, examining our life means examining our thoughts.

You may say, what about my emotions? Most of our emotions, in particular our negative emotions, are based on thoughts, are based on the way we see/understand the world. Behind every negative emotion, behind every painful emotion, behind every troublesome emotion there is always a thought, a way we see the world. And so, when we study our thoughts, we are also studying our emotions.

…in particular situations like the guilt that other people make you feel – persons that love you and care for you, like parents, only that they expected something else from you, a different lifestyle, career or friends. How to deal with their suffering and unsatisfaction, knowing that is very difficult to release that sadness because they don’t allow themselves another perspective? Although I know that it is just the way they see things that makes them hurt, for them this suffering is real and they believe that it is caused by my actions.

Carlos: Yes, they may believe that their suffering is caused by your actions, but now you know that it is not. It is only caused by their way of thinking. They are creating their own suffering, and it is NOT because of what you do.

Yes, for them the suffering is real, but what can you do? You can, and you should, love them with all your heart, BUT YOU CANNOT GO AGAINST YOURSELF.

And one of the best way to love our parents is to be happy ourselves. After all, that is what they want, what they hope, what they pray for. They want our happiness.

Re-reading this letter I think that somehow I fall in this trap: I’m right, they are wrong and they don’t know 🙂 ; I guess is complicated…

Carlos: Things are often not so complicated, but we tend to complicate things. It does not really matter who is right or wrong. Instead, I prefer to see things from what in Yoga is called dharma, the right action. Dharma is never about me or the other, it is about the whole. It is not about what I want or what the other person wants, but it is about what is the right action in this particular moment. Instead of seeing with the eyes of: ‘I want this but I don’t want that’ or ’they want this but they don’t want that’, I try to see it with the eyes of what is true, what is right, what is the right action from the point of view of life itself; not what I want or what they want but what is right as a whole. If we are not blinded by our own personal interests, life only wants to help us evolve from the vision of separation to the vision of unity; from the vision of ‘me and my problems’ to the vision of ‘the beauty of life’.

But to find this vision, as you say, it takes practice, and lots of dedication.

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