Did you ever realize that everything going on in your mind, every thought, feeling, sensation, everything you are aware of, is in fact happening only in your private internal world? Your thoughts appear only to you, and are not being heard by anyone else whatsoever. There is one physical world here on earth, but billions of different internal worlds. We are all in our own separate theatres, witnessing entirely different shows, and yet we behave and believe as it we are in the same audience, watching the very same event we call life.

Why is it important to contemplate this truth? To meditate on this is liberating because it implies that what we are personally living inside our head is not real. We are aware of our thoughts, so in that sense they are real. And yet, our thoughts do not exist outside of our awareness. There is nowhere else where the thought that is appearing to you in this moment is actually occurring. Unlike the way we imagine it, our thoughts are not solid like trees or rocks that exist outside of us in some tangible way. Certainly I have never seen a thought walk by me on the street. Where, how and if they even exist within the body is not clear. That they appear to our awareness, on a giant projection screen to which we are the audience, that is all we know.

Let’s say that at this moment you are having a thought about a friend and something specific that she did to you, and what you want to say to her in response. That friend who you are thinking about is not experiencing that thought at this moment. If you don’t engage with or entertain that thought, it will literally not exist. The thought appears only within you. Your friend knows nothing of it. And making it even stranger, you did not even have the thought that you are calling “yours.” Rather, it appeared to and within your awareness, without your ever choosing it or asking it to show up! If that thought is not fueled with your attention or interest, it will already have disappeared.

What makes a thought feel real is the attention we bring to it. We make a thought into a solid object by focusing on it and relating to it as if it is an event happening in the world somewhere, and usually in the world of the person or thing that we are thinking about. We link the two—the thought and the object that the thought is about—when in fact the two are not actually connected. Our thought does not affect the object of that thought unless we believe it does. How freeing it is to know that if we do not attend to a thought, answer it, change it, identify with it, and all the rest, it literally ceases to exist. If we let a thought be nothing, then that’s what it will be… nothing.

It can be a bit frightening to realize that we are the only ones living the experience that we are living, that what we are calling our experience doesn’t exist in any real sense, except for an instant inside our minds. So too, it can be unsettling to consider that there really is no shared experience going on whatsoever. And furthermore, that we do not choose the thoughts and feelings that appear before us, that they simply appear to our awareness and then disappear, like fireflies in the night. From what they are made and from where do they come, we simply cannot know.

But the question then begs, if each one of us is hearing different thoughts, living an entirely different circus if you will, none of which we actually script ourselves, then to whom or what are all these separate and individual performances appearing? Who or what is the larger audience, the collective awareness within which all these individual events occur? This is a question to ponder rather than answer.

And so the next time that a thought appears before you, within your awareness, remember that it is not real in the sense that it has some solid form or exists somewhere outside of you. Furthermore, the contents of what you are thinking about is in no way affected by the fact that this thought is appearing within you, nor is he/she/it aware that such an event is happening in your internal world. The thought appears in front of and within only you. Without the juice of your attention, it simply disappears without a trace.

1 thought on “Why Our Thoughts Are Not Real”

  1. This is so deep. My favorite part is ” If you don’t engage with or entertain that thought, it will literally not exist.” It’s so hard to grasp the concept because we’ve been taught otherwise but I can totally see how this is the case and have in fact ignored a thought without realizing that’s what I was doing. This is a great article Nancy! I’ve skimmed some of your other blog titles and am intrigued to read them.

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