Author Topic: When do we accept thoughts as true and valid and when don't we?  (Read 299 times)

PaulGib

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When do we accept thoughts as true and valid and when don't we?
« on: October 03, 2021, 09:16:09 PM »
Hello again to everyone, I asked a similar question here https://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php?topic=3724.msg37246#msg37246 just before Xmas last year and received some interesting replies but I am still struggling.

Again, I come at this from the perspective of MBSR rather than a Buddhist one (one day, who knows?) and I hope this is okay.

My introduction to Mindfulness has been from the like of Jon Kabat-Zinn, a bit of Mark Williams and colleagues and Bhante G. They all say that we should recognise thoughts as just thoughts and let them go. An example of the kind of approach they take is found here:https://www.med.upenn.edu/psychiatry/mindfulness_of_thoughts.html

I still am struggling, badly, with this idea and how to navigate life and guide action.

1. Surely there are thoughts that we need to accept and act upon, and thoughts with content that informs us and that we can learn from. But if we let them go how do we ever act on them and/or learn from them?
2. And if so, when do we let go and when do we accept the thought's content?

What criteria are used?

One example, I am doing a lot of soul-searching at the moment due to guilt. I think it may be delayed bereavement guilt as it centres on family members who are no longer here. There were times I acted appallingly towards my mother in very unfair ways. This is not a judgment that is unfair to me, family members agree with that assessment and it is valid.

That is both a thought and a judgment. If I say, "Oh, well, that's just a thought and a judgment, so I should let it go according to Kabat-Zinn," then I don't learn.

If I say, "This is a thought and judgement that I need to accept," then why is it? Why is it any different to the others that I should be letting go?"

You may well respond, "You *know* this thought is true and about something important, *that* is why you accept it." But there will be other thoughts that are on important topics and feel true as well but which won't be. So how do I know which thoughts to listen to and which to let go of? How do I know which are more realistric and less realistic thoughts?


raushan

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Re: When do we accept thoughts as true and valid and when don't we?
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2021, 01:14:22 PM »
Currently you just need to calm your mind. Letting go automatically happens when you can see clearly that thought is just a stress or burden to you. That seeing/ knowing happens automatically when you are calm enough.

Follow the meditation technique at the home page of this forum.
“The man who knows that he lives in a prison will find a way to break free of it. But the one who believes that he is free while being imprisoned will remain imprisoned forever.”

dharma bum

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Re: When do we accept thoughts as true and valid and when don't we?
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2021, 02:54:18 AM »
These are my thoughts with the disclaimer that I don't have any expertise in either Buddhism or therapy.

When we talk about letting thoughts go, it means to not cling to them. What are the thoughts that are valid? IMO, the thoughts that are valid are the thoughts that are constant and always true. So if you are convinced that you behaved in a poor way with someone, then you accept it as true and move on with the knowledge that you will behave better in future. Some Buddhists think not in terms of good/bad but in terms of skillful/unskillful. It is skillful to remember that if you behave poorly with someone, then there are consequences for you that will make you unhappy.

So letting thoughts go does not mean you don't learn from your mistakes. Quite the opposite. You learn from experience that doing harm to others causes you unhappiness.
Mostly ignorant

mobius

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Re: When do we accept thoughts as true and valid and when don't we?
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2021, 11:35:03 PM »
Currently you just need to calm your mind. Letting go automatically happens when you can see clearly that thought is just a stress or burden to you. That seeing/ knowing happens automatically when you are calm enough.

Follow the meditation technique at the home page of this forum.

this really is true. I can testify to it. Lately negative thoughts churn around in my mind and I make myself angry; for no good reason what-so-ever; I'm just by myself, thinking about what another person said or what I did wrong over and over. And then all of a sudden I remember; I don't need to dwell on these thoughts, I'm just hurting myself by this thinking; it's not helping me, let it go. Just let it go.
"Not knowing how near the truth is, we seek it far away."
-Hakuin Ekaku

"I have seen a heap of trouble in my life, and most of it has never come to pass" - Mark Twain

Matthew

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Re: When do we accept thoughts as true and valid and when don't we?
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2021, 12:45:35 PM »
...
So letting thoughts go does not mean you don't learn from your mistakes. Quite the opposite. You learn from experience that doing harm to others causes you unhappiness.

Very well put dharma.

this really is true. I can testify to it. Lately negative thoughts churn around in my mind and I make myself angry; for no good reason what-so-ever; I'm just by myself, thinking about what another person said or what I did wrong over and over. And then all of a sudden I remember; I don't need to dwell on these thoughts, I'm just hurting myself by this thinking; it's not helping me, let it go. Just let it go.

mobius,

This is a very good experiential learning related to what we have discussed in your other thread. Here you have seen through the external locus of self-worth and it's potential for unskilful reactions. You have chosen to let go and place your locus of self-worth on what you know inside.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Dylan

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Re: When do we accept thoughts as true and valid and when don't we?
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2021, 08:27:10 AM »

1. Surely there are thoughts that we need to accept and act upon, and thoughts with content that informs us and that we can learn from. But if we let them go how do we ever act on them and/or learn from them?
2. And if so, when do we let go and when do we accept the thought's content?

What criteria are used?


I feel that there is difficulty here because of how contrary to your Western (?) thinking it is. Just because we don't accept something doesn't mean we absolve our responsibility of learning from it. Many people seem to think that there is no distinction to be made between suffering from your decisions and actually learning from them, and this is no surprise because it is very difficult work to do.
Take this example from the guilt you have of how you've treated your mother. Isolating what can be discerned as emotional/ego reactions to this, what can you say that these things do for your development? How can these things properly be said to help you serve others? Recognize that you have guilt and self-hatred for your actions but accept the guilt as a condition of your being. You're blaming yourself but none of us are perfect! In fact you only acted in ugly ways because of your own suffering at the time.

My advice: accept everything! Stop fighting. For a more direct way of putting this into practice, try to feel the energy within your head and practice channeling it into your chest, holding it there relaxed for gradually extended durations. The self is much better at sorting these things out than your head!

Best of luck
Dylan

Alex

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Re: When do we accept thoughts as true and valid and when don't we?
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2021, 10:52:18 AM »
Hey PaulGib

You’re looking for criteria. If you ever find them, let me know ;)
In my experience, we constantly fool ourselves. It's easier to see after it happened, but in the moment we can only know when awareness/wisdom has grown sufficiently to see it and when mindfulness is strong.

That is why in meditation the instruction is to treat every thought, emotion and sensation the same (accept, let be, look), because only then may we learn something about the thought/feeling process itself. The conditioned dynamics in body-mind. Does that make sense?

When this happens, as awareness/wisdom grows we can gradually evaluate better off the cushion which thoughts are more interesting then others (I avoid the word realistic), which thoughts we want to give more attention to, and maybe act upon. BUT… we don’t act merely because we had a thought. We act because, upon (more or less wise) reflection, there is some action that is in accordance with one of our values (health, kindness, or other).

As for the example you give, it’s a difficult one, because I imagine there are strong emotions involved. So there's a lot to work with. I'd like to share some questions that rise within me are… what is actually the quality of your thoughts/judgments? Are they harsh/critical or self-compassionate? Are the judgments, realistic as they may seem to you, actually helping you be free and flourish, maybe creatively make amends, or are the thoughts captivating in any way?
How will you know if there's a bigger picture, if there's more to learn, if you don't allow your awareness to detach from the contents of these thoughts/judgments?

All the best
Alex

Alex

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Re: When do we accept thoughts as true and valid and when don't we?
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2021, 08:13:35 PM »
Are the judgments, realistic as they may seem to you, actually helping you be free and flourish, maybe creatively make amends, or are the thoughts captivating in any way?

As captivating as thoughts can be… I meant thoughts keeping you captive/imprisoned in any way?

 

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