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An independence of thought and action


Thoughts are not the problem… it’s the thing that goes out and grabs them and makes them ‘yours’ that’s the problem. ~Jac O’Keeffe

Thoughts appear and disappear all by themselves. There is no ownership to be claimed, because there is no owner. ~Jac O’Keeffe

The problem is not with the mind, it is the personal identification with thoughts that creates suffering. ~Jac O’Keeffe

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you think, ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself. ~Haruki Murakami (2008) What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

We are responsible for what we do no matter how we feel at the time. Feelings don’t control our behaviour. Blaming our feelings for our behaviour simply excuses unkind or irresponsible habits. Discarding such excuses, we create more space for healthy living habits. Three rules apply:

  • accept your feelings
  • know your purpose(s) and,
  • do what needs to be done

This approach, of course, overturns aspects of conventionally accepted wisdom. Feelings fade in time unless they are re-stimulated. That which you pay attention to grows. Psychological suffering is generally associated with a heightened degree of self-focused attention. Thus, when you wish to shift your attention, lead with the body, not the mind.

Implicit in this is an independence of thought and action, something a alien to the Western ideal to ‘follow our whims and moods.’ We can no more control our thoughts than we can control the weather, as both are phenomena of most amazingly complex natural systems. And if we have no hope of controlling our emotions, we can hardly be held responsible any more than we can be held responsible for feeling hot or cold. We do, however, have complete dominion over our behaviour, and that is a sacred responsibility.

However this reality requires living with awareness and meditation practice to un-condition a lifetime of fiction and lies. There is an assumption behind Western therapeutic methods that it is necessary to change or modify our feeling state before we can take action. We assume that we must ‘overcome’ fear to dive into a pool, or develop confidence so we can make a public presentation. But in actuality, it is not necessary to change our feelings in order to take action. In fact, it is our efforts to change our feelings that often makes us feel even worse. Feelings must be recognised and accepted as they are. Rather than suppress, repress, transform, fix or work through feelings it is wisest to simply feel what we are feeling. For example shy people should simply ‘sweat.’ This approach, of course, overturns aspects of conventionally accepted wisdom. Thus concentrate on living a spiritual life by observing the noble eightfold path.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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