Thoughts Without a Thinker

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“AT MY FIRST meditation retreat, a two-week period of silent attention to mind and body, I was amazed to find myself sitting in the dining hall with an instant judgment about each of the hundred other meditators, based on nothing besides how they looked while eating. Instinctively, I was searching out whom I liked and whom I did not: I had a comment for each one. The seemingly simple task of noting the physical sensations of the in and out breath had the unfortunate effect of revealing just how out of control my everyday mind really was. Meditation is ruthless in the way it reveals the stark reality of our day-to-day mind. We are constantly murmuring, muttering, scheming, or wondering to ourselves under our breath: comforting ourselves, in a perverse fashion, with our own silent voices. Much of our interior life is characterized by this kind of primary process, almost infantile, way of thinking: “I like this. I don’t like that. She hurt me. How can I get that? More of this, no more of that.” These emotionally tinged thoughts are our attempts to keep the pleasure principle operative. Much of our inner dialogue, rather than the “rational” secondary process that is usually associated with the thinking mind, is this constant reaction to experience by a selfish, childish protagonist. None of us has moved very far from the seven-year-old who vigilantly watches to see who got more.”
― Mark Epstein, Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective

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