Sri Nisargardatta Maharaj, author of “I Am That,” once said this about struggling to manage out of control thoughts:
It’s not about effort. Just turn away, look between the thoughts, rather than at the thoughts. When you happen to walk in a crowd, you do not fight every man you meet, you just find your way between … When you refuse to play the game, you are out of it.
The above quote isn’t telling us to give up when we’re facing challenging emotions, thoughts, and habitual responses to tough situations. It’s reminding us that we have the power, intrinsically, to view things from a different angle, if we can pull ourselves out of the struggle with harmful mental habits.
Getting to the place where we allow the feeling to play out on our bodies, as though we were a movie screen or painters canvas can be very difficult at first. It takes practice and watchfulness and ideally a rich social support system.
But it gets easier. Over time, we realize that thoughts can make no decisions on their own. We must give ourselves over to them for them to really harm us. They also grow in power when we resist them rather than see them for what they are. Remnants of past misunderstandings that we’re allowing ourselves to outgrow.
When we see what’s true, we’re reminded of which version of ourselves those harmful thoughts and habits belonged to.
We are bigger than any thought and circumstance, which must receive meaning and power from the stories we tell about our lives and experiences.
It takes practice but it gets easier and easier. We can get better at telling better stories.