Thinking is Suffering

From our e-book “We are Here to Celebrate”

photo of tattooed woman leaning on bricked wall

“If it costs our peace of mind, it costs too much.” – MG Satchidananda.

“Thinking is suffering,” a spiritual friend once shared this insight with me. Three simple words and he just described the secret of happiness. In the book ‘Kriya Yoga: Synthesis of a personal experience,’ Ennio Nimis wrote, “To me, everything was as easy to explain as for a theorem, our misery lies entirely in one thing, the tyranny of thought.”

Why does our intellect make us suffer? Doesn’t it recognize that such mental suffering only introduces toxins into our body? Why does it not point towards the true source of peace and happiness – the divine within everything? Our intellect will not do so because if it does, the ego is no longer special. The ego exists in separation and wants to stand out; to be special. When the ego judges someone, the person will feel superior and special. The ego does not care if the act of judging someone else fills the person’s heart with anger and frustration.

To be more precise, it is our conditioning that brings suffering. Our conditioning and our thoughts are the same thing. We think the way we are conditioned to think. How we were raised plays a role in our conditioning, for example, when we were young, our parents may have compared us with others and pit us against others in order to make us
strive harder. Their intentions were good but the comparison conditions us to pressure ourselves, long after our parents have stopped doing so.

It takes a good habit to replace a bad one. The habit, and it’s the only habit worth developing, to replace this adverse conditioning is the habit of awareness.

Negative thoughts bring suffering to the one harboring those thoughts. The problem is that it is not painful enough to make us withdraw from them. It is unlike when we touch something hot, we immediately withdraw our hand from it. But our heart can tolerate a lot of pain. So when negative thoughts bring heartache, we can still cling on to them for a very long time and tolerate the pain. It is a silly habit!

That is why observation of our feelings is important. When we observe the effects of negative thoughts on our emotions, we recognize that we are suffering. If we are not conscious, we may not be even aware that we are suffering. We only say that we are angry or feeling victimized but we do not really recognize how much suffering the emotion is bringing us. We do not know that we are suffering and we go on indulging in the negative thoughts.

Let our hearts be our guide. The heart never lies. It never gives us complicated answers. If a thought is not good for us, it will tell us immediately. If a thought is pleasing, it will show us straight-away by flooding us with inner-peace and ease. The heart is a wonderful guru.  Let us give our hearts our full attention. Let our heart guide us.

Our negative thoughts do not only affect ourselves. Negative thoughts about others will be picked up by them, causing them to feel uncomfortable with us. Thoughts are energy and we all have antennas to pick up these energy signals unconsciously. MG Satchidananda wrote, ‘The societal effect of one Yogi’s positive thinking or blessing, is much more powerful than the dispersed negative thinking of a thousand ordinary folk’.

This is one of the reasons why we need to integrate our spiritual practices in our daily lives. We cannot act one way when we are in the temple and another way when we are not. In Buddhism, there is a practice called Metta or loving-kindness. We radiate kind and loving thoughts to all beings, including our enemies. It replaces our negative thoughts with positive ones and naturally brings peace to our hearts.

We need to maintain our peace of mind for the sake of others. Our minds are part of the universal mind which determines what happens in this conceptual world. By maintaining our peace of mind, we are influencing the world to move towards God. It is especially important that we do so now that violence is so prevalent in this world. It is therefore important for us to take care of our bodies and make our mind strong. With a strong mind, we can easily maintain our awareness from moment to moment and have inner-peace.

Let us not allow our intellect to make us suffer. Take note of it, revert to your breath and let it go. Remember, when there is awareness, there is happiness; when it is absent, there is suffering. Without awareness, there can be no inner-peace.Without inner-peace, there can be no happiness.

Mara or the Devil is often depicted as a separate entity. Our mind love stories of good versus evil. But there is no such thing. The only way Mara can hurt us is through our thoughts. Mara is our negative thoughts. Mara is our negative karmic tendencies. So, there is no enemy out there waiting to destroy the world and there is no war to fight. The war is within all of us. Everyone of us must fight our own battles; the battle with our egos.

Research has proven that 90% of what we think about today is the same as the thoughts we had yesterday. If the same thoughts keep coming back to us over and over again and have the same negative effects on us, then there is no real progress for us. What we want to do is to reduce the emotional charge that is associated with the negative thoughts to the extent that they only arise on the surface of our minds and do not stimulate any negative emotions.

One of the greatest benefits that we can gain from meditation and from ‘being present’ in our daily lives is that we will understand our negative mental habits. We cannot solve a problem unless we aware that the problem exists. We want to arrest these negative mental habits before they manifest in our physical bodies in the form of diseases. Negative thoughts play themselves in our head like a broken record. As long as we allow these thoughts to generate negative emotions within us, they will play themselves over and over again in our head. The more frequent they happen, the stronger they get. This is called habit.

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