Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Release Yourself from The Tyranny of Thoughts & Emotions

I see vividly – in my own mind – how painful emotions are so often preceded by a thought*.

That thought – along with all the others – is just a story I create about my experience.  It doesn’t really exist.  Like a rainbow, a dream, or mirage, the thought appears and, sooner or later, it disappears.

Knowing this – truly knowing this – is an essential aspect of securing true freedom and putting an end to suffering.  Do you believe you can put an end to suffering?

The Buddha said:

“Know all things to be like this:

A mirage, a cloud castle,

A dream, an apparition,

Without essence, but with qualities that can be seen.

Know all things to be like this:

As the moon in a bright sky

In some clear lake reflected,

Though to that lake the moon has never moved.

Know all things to be like this:

As an echo that derives

From music, sounds, and weeping,

Yet in that echo is no melody.

Know all things to be like this:

As a magician makes illusions

Of horses, oxen, carts and other things,

Nothing is as it appears.”

How can you come to know this dream-like quality of your thoughts, emotions, and life itself and, in so doing, release yourself from the snare of suffering?

Thoughts and emotions seem to tumble one after another – thousands each day – the strong ones picking up momentum and wrecking havoc with your peace of mind.  These distressing thought-seeds are the source of suffering – the fruit of our past actions.  Too often, they compel us to unwholesome speech or action, reinforcing the cycle.

This is the problem:  Identifying fully with the thoughts and emotions. By firmly believing thoughts and emotions are YOU,  you allow them to color your mood and steer the course of your life.   This seemingly continuous stream of thoughts and emotions appears to be all that occurs in your mind, all that you are.

Discovering the Space Between Thoughts or Emotions

But this is not the case!  You can discover for yourself  there’s actually a gap between each thought. When a past thought has ceased and a future thought has not yet arisen, you will always find a gap as brief and elusive as it may originally seen.

In meditation, you allow thoughts and emotions to slow down to make this gap more and more apparent, simply placing your attention on an object like the breath or being aware of but not following whatever arises in the mind.   The practice of calm abiding is the foundation of meditation, allowing mind to settle into a state of peace and to find a greater sense of stability.  Through calm abiding you can begin to taste the spacious, open, limitless quality of mind.

Going Beyond Stillness Into Insight

Discovering the stillness of mind and resting in the present moment is an excellent accomplishment. But often  these moments of peace are mistaken as the ultimate purpose of meditation itself.  Calm abiding is simply the first stage of meditation not the end-game.  Although you may enjoy a greater level of peace, the problem with calm abiding on its own is that strong emotional winds can still knock you over; it will not lead to liberation from suffering.

The real purpose of calm abiding is to create the space and stability in which the clarity of mind can emerge.  It is only through the lens of insight, that you will come to see and appreciate the illusory ever-changing quality of ordinary mind and existence – “to know all things to be like this”.   Through insight, you will discover your true nature – beyond all the thoughts and emotions –  limitless, aware, and replete with compassionate energy.  It’s this recognition that brings true freedom and an ultimate peace that goes beyond the stillness or movement of mind.

By observing my own mind, I’ve come to see how often a thought will trigger a cascade of emotion.  At the same time, realizing their transitory and illusory nature, thoughts and emotions are gradually loosing their power to drag me into pain and suffering.  I have a long way to go, but I really do see the possibility of putting an end to suffering.  In fact, it can happen in any moment.  I’ve seen it happen when I’m able to drop the storyline of my mind.

You are not your thoughts and emotions!  Realizing this – even once – is the first step to freeing yourself from their tyranny.

*It’s not always the case that a thought precedes an emotion, but I find it often to be this way.

Thank you for reading and sharing.  With love, Sandra ~ P. S. If you enjoy my articles please consider subscribing for free updates by email.

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23 Comments

  1. I know exactly what you are saying, Sandra..especially about a single thought releasing an entire range of emotions and transporting us to a different place – all in the blink of an eye, even when we resist.

    Beautiful post. I loved reading it. And The Buddha’s verse. A treasure.

    Thank you. Love, Vidya

    • I’m delighted that you are so in tune with release yourself from the grip of thoughts and emotions! Hearing how it can happen for you in a blink of an eye is further encouragement for all of us. Much love to you.

  2. Sandra, great post. I especially love the first paragraph in which you compare thought to a rainbow, a dream, or a mirage. Precisely!

    Realizing this and separating myself from my thoughts and emotions has completely transformed my world. I learned and practice this through meditation, but it becomes the way of being all the time…thank goodness! 🙂

    • Debbie,

      It’s amazing that this has become a way of being for you all the time! Thanks goodness, but also what a huge accomplishment.

  3. For some reason, it did not post the link to my blog above!

  4. Hi Sandra,

    I also love the quote you included from the Buddha – because it describes so clearly the true nature of reality.

    I have made a discovery recently, which is when all thought is rejected, I am still here. This proves that thoughts aren’t real. They come and go, only the most minimal ones are necessary for functioning, and when they aren’t given any energy, life unfolds beautifully. There can be a tsunami of thought, but I – aware presence – am still here unmoving and undisturbed.

    Thoughts come to life only when we animate them with attention. Let that attention rest in awareness, and what remains is reality – peace and love illuminated everywhere.

    • Hi Gail,

      Your insights are always deeply inspiring. And this is the most amazing thing, we don’t have to believe anyone else; we can look at our own mind and – in time – discover this for ourselves. Thoughts will still arise but there’s so much more space between us and the thoughts and they lose their power to draw us acting unconsciously.

      I love your image of peace and love illuminated everywhere! Yes, that’s exactly what’s left!

  5. Jean Sampson

    Hi Sandra, what a beautiful post and I loved the picture!
    I do this thing that separates me from thoughts and feelings and gives me an entirely different perspective on everything. When things get emotionally wild, I imagine myself popping out of my body and drifting up above my head (sometimes I go really high so I can see a lot) and just observe myself (“Jean”) doing or feeling whatever she is feeling or doing, and I think, “Well, isn’t that interesting. Jean is feeling—-whatever.” It completely gets me to see my known self, my physical self, as just one aspect of who I am. I think this is sort of related to what this post is about. I also really loved the quote!

    • How interesting, Jean! I’m glad you have learned how to gain space from troublesome emotions! I’m training in just looking directly at the thought. Then they often seem to dissolve quite quickly. Thanks for sharing your experience with this.

  6. Madhumanti Mukherjee

    Thank you for this beautiful post 🙂 …

  7. This is an excellent article. Have you ever noticed how people are almost always in a sort ‘panic’ about something. You often see how illogical it is.

    But when it happens to oneself, we are lost and feel lost and feel panic too. We worry and it feels like the end is here. Yet tomorrow we wake up and we have forgotten that mind/ emotional state that we had experienced so powerfully the day before. Everything looks different in the morning.

    If we could just remember 100% of the time that all the thoughts and therefore the emotions are more or less ‘created’ and do not last, we would be so much happier.

    Thanks for sharing this post. it is a good one!

    • Exactly! Due to our long-standing habits it can be difficult to tame our mind right off the bat. But just knowing that thoughts and emotions are “created” alone can bring us so much freedom. Thanks for your insights.

  8. This is so true. I know it from my own experience. Isn’t it wonderful to recognize this?! Very liberating, and a bit scary, too. There is a line in A Course in Miracles that says, “I have given everything I see all the meaning it has for me.” I was very happy to be reminded of this by your lovely post today.

    • I love that quote from A Course in Miracles. Very fitting. Yes, being groundless is a bit scary! I’m glad the post was a positive reminder for you!

  9. Hi Sandra

    How do you prevent yourself from becoming a slave to your thoughts and emotions? I have the similar experience that my thoughts can lead to various other emotions. When thoughts, especially the negative ones, appear in my mind, I would try to be mindful of this and at the same time reminding myself that this thought is transitory in nature and that it will pass. This way, I can reasonably detach myself from strong negative emotions generated from negative thoughts.

  10. Hi Sandra,

    As an INFJ, it took a long time for me to free myself from my thoughts and emotions. The hold they had over me when I was younger was very strong. After severe chest pains and depression, it came to a point where I had to learn to manage my thoughts and emotions better. That’s when I set out on my spiritual journey and learned to still my mind.

    I usually use a variety of methods to separate myself from my thoughts and emotions. Apart from meditation, I pay close attention to my mental, emotional and spiritual nourishment. The books I read and the things I watch should either be uplifting, funny, inspiring or spiritual. This makes it easier for me to detach and manage a crisis objectively when it happens. But at times when I need to let go and feel my emotions fully, I have no problems with that as well.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

    Irving the Vizier

    • Irving,

      That’s quite an amazing story of how your thoughts and emotions had such a strong hold on your when you were younger to the point of causing physical symptoms. It’s wonderful that you used this as an impetus to set out on your spiritual journey.

      I love your criteria for mental, emotional, and spiritual nourishment! Over recent years, I’ve brought more uplifting, funny, and inspiring input into my life, but I see how I could do this much more. Spiritual nourishment has been an important threat for quite some time. You’ve inspired me to explore and expand these elements. Thank you!

  11. So beautiful put. I believe I can end suffering with just my thoughts! Yes, yes, yes!
    Jodi

  12. Hi Sandra — thanks for this — it’s an interesting paradox, in my experience, that focusing my attention on an uncomfortable emotion or sensation actually “detaches” me from it in the sense that I don’t feel so controlled by it, while trying to distract myself from it actually causes the emotion to run my life behind the scenes.

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