Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Who You Are Is The One Watching It

Howell Mountain Appellation, Napa Valley, California, USA

December 30, 2017

"Here's my view: there's nothing  I want people to learn from me. It's what you discover for yourself that makes it powerful."
...    discussing compassion with Dr James Doty at Stanford University 
"I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round. I really love to watch them roll. No longer riding on the merry-go-round, I just had to let it go."
... John Lennon, Watching The Wheels
I am indebted to Beverly McDonogh who contributed material for this conversation.

A friend and I were talking. He had a lot happening. I had the sense that the deluge of thoughts he said he had going on following a family matter, was overwhelming for him.

People (that's you and I) struggle with being overwhelmed by thoughts. We say things like "I can't stop thinking about it", "I can't let it go", etc. With his permission (preserving his privacy and confidentiality) I'll recreate the gist of our conversation here with you. It's more than I consider it to be valuable enough to share. It's I consider it to be too valuable not  to.

My take on the deluge of thoughts he described, is this: it's not that we can't stop thinking: it's that our thinking is on automatic. Yes it seems  to us as if we're the ones doing the thinking. Yes it shows up  for us that way. But you and I really have very little to do with thoughts coming and going. What completely obfuscates the automaticity of thinking, is simple: it's not what we ordinarily believe thinking to be. It's embedded in our culture (by "our culture" I mean the culture of the entire planet - not just the culture of one specific country, or of our specific community) that it's we  who do the thinking - there's no question about it (which means we don't question it). We even use language like "I  think ...", suggesting we believe it's (our) "I" who does the thinking, drives it, causes it to happen.

I offered him this test to try out (it's not my original test: I didn't make it up: I got it from Werner): if it's you who are doing the thinking, then stop thinking.

Now that's an easy test to do, right? If it's true that it's you who are doing the thinking, then you should be able to stop  doing the thinking. And if you stopped doing the thinking, then the thoughts would stop (it's not only an easy  test: it's also a no-brainer, yes?). Do it. Look: even the most cursory experiment shows thoughts don't stop when you stop doing the thinking. And if thoughts don't stop when you stop doing the thinking, then it's not you who's doing the thinking in the first place.

Man! That's tough to confront. It goes against everything we know, everything we've been taught, everything we believe. It's counter-intuitive, and it even goes against common sense.

Consider this: you're not thinking anything. You're not the one doing the thinking. "I think ..." is an illusion. "There is thinking"  is a more accurate reflection of what's going on. "Thinking is going on"  is a truer reflection of what's really happening. You aren't thinking thoughts: thoughts are thinking you. You aren't doing the thinking: thoughts are using  you. Be careful: none of my above assertions are better  ways of regarding thinking. They do however, call for an entirely new way of relating to our thought process and to who or what is really  doing the thinking.

The automaticity of thinking is ongoing. It's incessant. It's forever, and it's all the time. It's constant. It started a few millennia ago. And it'll be going on for the next few millennia or so at least, uninterrupted. Listen: this isn't a new, clever belief about what thinking is: it's an observation  of the way thinking is (notice beliefs  about what thinking is, and observations  of the way thinking is, occur in discontiguous domains). This is a call to give up whatever belief you already have in place about what is thinking (and especially about who or what is doing the thinking) and instead for a moment, just stand flat-footed ... and look  at what it is.

"OK" you may say (it has  to get to this point eventually) "if I'm not the one doing the thinking, then in relation to my own thoughts, who exactly am I?" (more pertinent questions may be "... in relation to my own thoughts, what  exactly am I?" and / or "... who or what am I in relation to my own thinking?").

Watch: the pragmatic view of thinking won't come from simply trading one tired, old belief for a new, seemingly better one. The pragmatic view of thinking will come from looking at ie from observing, from discovering, from inquiring into  the way it really is. So try this on for size (not like it's "The Truth"  because that's certain to ruin it tout de suite, but rather to see if it jibes with your personal experience): who are you in relation to your own thinking, is you're the space in which it shows up. Said another way, in relation to your own thinking, who you are is the one watching it. Now you can't "think that through" because it's not a belief (you'll only get stuck in it). But you can  experience it directly.

Here's my invitation (it's an authentic invitation, so you're free to decline it or to accept it): see if you can have a new relationship with your own thinking, in which you're the one noticing it ie in which you're the one watching it, rather than the one doing it - and we already know from Werner's test "If it's you who are doing the thinking, then stop thinking", that you're not the one doing it.

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