Freedom from Believing Thoughts

Last night I was at a bar in San Francisco, on a roof-top overlooking the city. I was with two young actors about to begin their careers. We started to talk about what might be possible in their futures. Very quickly, it became clear that most of what they were focusing on was beliefs: “I’m not skinny enough,” “I not the right ethnicity,” and “I’m not the right type.”

So much effort and energy was being spent on these beliefs that contradicted what they appeared to be choosing from life. I spent some time supporting them in discovering that these beliefs are just thoughts that have been taken seriously. Thoughts are just concepts that pass through the mind. Thoughts have no inherent basis in reality.

“They think I’m a crap actor!” is a thought. This is so arrogant! They’re not even thinking about you. If they’re caught up in thoughts, then they will be thoughts about themselves, thoughts like “I’m so good at this!” or “I’m better than him!” Their process of suffering and self-limiting has nothing to do with you. Your thoughts have nothing to do with you either.

It’s not necessary to find counter-examples to disprove the veracity of thoughts. For example, saying, “Well, look at Lena Dunham, she’s successful in spite of everything,” will only lead down a rabbit-hole spiral of beliefs and counter-beliefs. To discover the creative freedom that is already here, all we have to do is recognize thoughts as thoughts, to see them for what they really are. Thoughts clearly have no intrinsic basis in reality beyond being dry concepts. In scientific terms, thoughts are simply hypotheses appearing out of thin-air. They are hypotheses that are truly untestable because we cannot ever really know what’s going on inside other people or what will happen in an imagined future that never comes, that’s never this [looks around]. All we can truly hope to know is what actually appears to be happening.

It’s as if we’re walking along the street and stopping to pick up and worship each piece of trash we see. There’s nothing wrong with worshipping trash, but it’s probably not what you have envisioned for your life. Look at what you’re holding onto; it’s just a piece of trash. Drop it into the trash can, if you like, or place it on an altar and worship, it if you like; it makes no difference.

Meanwhile, there’s something dissatisfying about worshipping trash. Part of us is watching and whispering, “that’s not quite what I had in mind.” Not only that, but other people seem to notice that we have a collection of trash and donate to our collection: “Yeah, Hollywood is really brutal. Those casting agents don’t give you a chance. You have to sleep with directors to get anywhere.” Now your trash collection is getting impressive!

So the trick, if there is a trick, is to notice what you’re doing and to let go of the thoughts. Thoughts will naturally flow through on their own. They’re like water in a river. The river is always the same, but the thoughts keep changing. There’s an apparent process that is trying to happen so that what you truly are can become manifest.

The continual perfection of reality, and the apparent ability to choose what shows up in life, is not something that must be constructed. This perfection is revealed naturally when these trashy hypotheses about reality are allowed to flow by, to flow back into the ocean.

There’s nothing we have to do, although it’s possible that the apparent grasping can subside. Then the trash collection can gradually be washed away by the river of life. Then we can immediately step into the flow and become deliciously overwhelmed by it. Then can we merge into what is happening and allow the recognition that we have always been one with it.