Don’t believe everything you think.*

*Or, why you are not your thoughts.

don't believe

“You are not your thoughts, my dear,” I said.  “You are so much bigger than your thoughts.”

She looked at me with bewilderment.  “I don’t understand what that means.  I’m the one thinking.  How could that not be me?”

One of my favorite — albeit colorful and slightly disgusting — metaphors to help people understand this principle is of a monkey throwing its own feces at the wall of its cage.  Monkeys in cages throw poo; it’s what they do.  Minds imprisoned by beliefs throw thoughts; it’s what they do.

Have you ever noticed that thoughts just seem to happen?  That you don’t have much (read: any) control over them?  Think about the last time you had to write a paper for school.  Either the thoughts come or they don’t.  You can’t will yourself to have the brilliant thoughts needed to write the perfect essay any more than you can will yourself not to have disturbing or hateful or self-aggressive thoughts.

So why am I celebrating this and not cowering in the corner of my poo-covered pen?  The quandary of the monkey mind lies not in the thoughts, or even in the Thought Maker, but in whether or not we choose to believe the thoughts. Rather than identifying with the monkey (the thought-making poo slinger), or with the thoughts (the poo), we can imagine ourselves as the space in which the thoughts are thrown, as the one who watches the whole spectacle from a place of detached bemusement, because honestly, it’s all a little funny.

Accepting that we don’t control our thoughts doesn’t mean that we let the monkey run wild.  If we are wise (or at least tired of the pain caused by our thoughts, which is its own wisdom), we learn to train the monkey (through mindfulness, cognitive practices, self-kindness . . . ).  We learn to question our habitual thoughts (“Is that true . . ?) and identify the core beliefs — held in our bodies — that are generating insufferable conditions of imprisonment.  With time and practice, the monkey learns to settle and may even start sowing flowers in all that compost.  Eventually, we may come to realize that the cage itself doesn’t exist and that our very nature is freedom.  So no, you are not your thoughts, my dear.  You are so much bigger than your thoughts.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPCC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting  If this postcard was meaningful for you, I invite you to share it with others who may benefit.

Mind Your Mind: What “The Secret” Kept Secret

Joyful Balance LLC Mind Your Mind

Many people were excited by a movie called The Secret, in which certain experts tried to explain the power of our thoughts in creating our own reality.  The examples in the movie were thin, focusing primarily on the acquisition of material objects and wealth and suggesting a kind of magical thinking: “If I simply want something badly enough, I will get it.”

This movie evoked a phenomenon I refer to as New Age Self-Hatred.  If my life is not going quite the way I want, then there must be something wrong with me (or at least with my thoughts), as if perfecting our thinking is the key to a life free from suffering.  As if it is even possible to have a life that is completely free from suffering.

And here is where many people get stuck.  They know they want to show up in their lives in a certain way.  They try to think positive thoughts.  But beneath the surface are hidden core beliefs, beliefs that seep out in unconscious gestures or habitual expressions, beliefs that are sending out signals about how they are really feeling.  It is these deeper intentions that shape the world we live in.

While pain (in the form of sadness, anger, jealousy, disappointment) is a natural part of being human, and while the level of discourse in The Secret is specious, there is truth in the idea that our thoughts ~ our beliefs, our emotional stories about ourselves and the world ~ have a tremendous impact on our experience.

Sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan put it like this:

A person thinks, “Some day I should like to build a factory.” At this
time he has no money, no knowledge, no capability; but a thought
came, “Some day I should like to build a factory.” Then he thinks of
something else. Perhaps years pass, but that thought has been working
constantly through a thousand minds, and a thousand sources prepare
for him that which he once desired. If we could look back to all we
have thought of at different times, we would find that the line of
fate or destiny . . .  is formed by our thought. Thoughts have prepared for us that happiness or unhappiness which we experience. The whole of mysticism is founded on this.

If thoughts can accomplish this, so can love or imagination; even a
dream can accomplish it according to the impression which it makes.
Some thoughts are like things, like objects, other thoughts are like
beings. Some thoughts are like angels by our side, and some are like
devils. They are all round us, either helping us towards the
accomplishment of the objects before us, or drawing us back from
those things we wish to accomplish.

One of the reasons that somatic therapy is so powerful is that the mind does not exist only in our thoughts.  Neuroscience research tells us that there are neurons ~ the basic communication system of the mind ~ throughout the body, especially in the heart and in the gut.  The intuitions that we are trained to ignore (i.e., the gut feeling, the heartfelt sense) are in fact another manifestation of mind.  Somatic therapies, like Hakomi, allow us to include these channels of experience, so that transformation can happen on a whole-body level.  So often, clients say to me some version of, “I understand what you’re saying , but I don’t feel it in my body.”  This is where the full understanding of the mind ~ mindFULLness ~ creates a doorway to powerful transformation.  Including the body matters.

Believing is seeing ~ can you imagine a world where hummingbirds nest on a peach?

Believing is seeing ~ can you imagine a world where hummingbirds nest on a peach?

No amount of therapy (or meditation or prayer or . . . ) can completely eradicate the “inconvenient” emotions — sadness, anger, grief, disappointment, jealousy, shame, etc.  When someone we love passes away, it is natural to grieve.  When someone violates our boundaries, it is natural to feel anger.  However, our beliefs about these events, and about our natural responses to them, about ourselves as we experience them, and about what kind of world we are living in, have the power to shape that very world.  Therapy that works at the level of beliefs, including the whole body-mind system, truly holds the potential to change our minds.

For more information about Joyful Balance Counseling, please contact Rafia Rebeck, MA.