Find Happiness 9: How to Detach Yourself from Your Thoughts

dreamstime_9984107flock Imagine you’re sitting on a meadow looking at the sky and a flock of birds flies slowly across your field of vision. 

You watch the birds enter your view, keep watching as they cross it and then exit it.

There’s you, and there’s the birds. No question about that, right? You certainly don’t feel that the birds are part of you. They’re objects and you’re watching them. That’s VERY clear.

You might not realize it, but your thought process is remarkably similar…

 

Your thoughts are passing by in front of you and you’re only watching them. They’re objects, just like the birds. They are not you. They are the products of your brain.

A thought like, “I’m depressed” or “I’m so happy” is just like one of those birds. So is “What a lousy life I’m leading” or “Life is so cool!”

 

They’re all like those birds, and you’re watching them.

But all these days you felt those thoughts were “you.”

 

So how do you experience that you are separate from your thoughts and just watching them? Easy. 

  • Sit quietly somewhere, close your eyes and watch what’s going on in your head. As soon as you “think” something, try and locate the answer to the question, “Who was aware of that thought?” The answer is the basic “you”, and the result will be that you separate “yourself” from that thought.
  • Perform this process  on a daily basis on several thoughts (10 minutes a day will do). Gradually you will realize you are separate from all your thoughts; you will in other words realize that they are objects and you are an observer. Since emotions are nothing but thoughts, you separate yourself from them too. Since the basic “you” is separate from your emotions, it feels no sadness, happiness, frustration or any other emotions.

Sound dull? Not really. On the other hand, bereft of thoughts/emotions of all kinds, you are actually at perfect peace.

Please be aware that at no point am I saying that you should suppress your thoughts. Your thoughts should certainly keep flowing, only you should watch them like you watched those birds fly over your field.

 

This is the secret to being peaceful at all times. Try it, it really works!

 

To your peaceful life,


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46 Replies to “Find Happiness 9: How to Detach Yourself from Your Thoughts”

  1. Really well said but could you please answer to my question that is this same technique can be applied to someone who is having sexually intrusive thoughts? I mean these thoughts are shame… but shall we think even these thoughts as passing clouds or birds ? please reply

    1. Hi Charu,

      This might come as surprise to you, but there is nothing wrong with sexual thoughts. It is natural for men and women to have them, even if they have a spouse and the thoughts are about someone else. So don’t, for God’s sake, be shocked or afraid of such thoughts. When they occur, let them stay in your mind as long as they want. In the meantime get on with whatever your duties are. Other thoughts will take over after a while, and even if that seems to take a long time, so what. Try and understand this: there is no difference between a sexual thought and a thought about a cup of coffee. Let any thought occur, stop believing that you can be stained or enhanced by any of them and don’t be bothered about them (this takes a little courage; pull out the courage not to bother, that courage is in all of us) . Many people fall into this “good thoughts, bad thoughts” trap (I was in it myself as a youth) and for that reason I have a whole post about it at http://calmandcool.com/412/good-thoughts-bad-thoughts-baloney.htm. Read it, think over it, put the principles into practice and let me know how it goes.

    1. Have signed you up. If you haven’t got a message in connection with it, please let me know here.

      Best

      Lucky

  2. I have an unhealthy obsession with people judging me, if not now then in the future. It has gotten to the point where I will drop ‘hints’ about various subjects around people whom I perceive might be judging me, so that I can understand and hopefully change their perception if I believe that they are (or if I believe that they will) . I am capable of seeking approval in very creative ways. Such as if a particular remark from someone triggers a thought in my head that leads me to believe that they are judging (or may later), then I will often awkwardly approach the subject with them directly and get them to say things that might confirm but hopefully deny any suspicion that they would judge.

    Here’s an example: I used to date a girl with kids and have become ultra sensitive to jokes, jabs or comments that people might make around this topic, whether directed at me or in general. For instance, somebody at work made a joke recently and ‘accused’ me of hitting on a girl who was pregnant. This was untrue of course and this person (a female) was allegedly joking but my thought process was as follows.. “what if I ever were to reconnect with my previous girlfriend who had kids (a very special person to me)? Would this person disapprove and judge? If she’s making jokes about me hitting on a pregnant girl, then naturally she would be judgmental about my dating someone with kids. I might as well not even try to rekindle that flame because I wouldn’t be able to handle the judgement. Why do I even care so much about what this person thinks to begin with?” I’ve actually casually approached the subject with this person to get her to say something to indicate that she would not in fact judge me, and had a bit of “success”, but I’m still obsessed with being judged by this person and others. This is just one bothersome example of the several that visit my mind on a regular basis. It’s like I have to be seen as totally normal, cool, liked, all of the above. And I have an obsession with being seen as weird, unusual, creepy, gay, you name it I’m obsessed with whether others might be judging me as these after having been led to believe to some degree that they are (then again my mind can be VERY biased toward believing that others are interpreting me negatively).

    So how can I possibly stop caring what people think? To separate myself from these obsessive thoughts that others either judge me now or will judge me later? It seems like little more than a mind experiment to try and separate myself from them since they are so strong and persistent. I can’t help but to think that they are an intrinsic part of me, even though articles such as the one you have written seem to suggest that they aren’t. Please advise!

    1. You no longer are connected to the gf with kids, so don’t be fussed about what she may think. As for your workmate’s jibe, just say yes or no about dating the pregnant girl.

      In general I think you are too bothered about what people think about you. IMHO no matter what your personality is like, there will be some people who approve of it and some who don’t. As long as you are polite and a bit helpful, most people will indeed approve!

      My bit of advice: don’t be insistent that everyone thinks you’re cool.

      Best

      Lucky

  3. Hello mr. Balaraman
    My name is Ivan and I’m 24 years old. I do not know how to formulate what I want to share with you and I’ll try to be brief and clear. I think you’re an incredibly good man. I do not know, but the way you write and communicate with people is really great.
    What I want to ask is – a year ago I had an affair with a girl who continued a year.Two months before the split she went to work in another country, but we decided to try to keep the connection.
    During these two months a few times understand that it serves and she has met another boy. Unconsciously ask myself – “if she cheated on me?” This question provoked fear in me. After we broke this “If she cheat on me” became obsessive thought for me. Now afraid to have a girlfriend because constantly pops into my mind this thought.
    What steps would you advise me to take to deal with accumulated stress and cope with the thought and fear?
    Will really very happy if I get advice from someone like you.

    Best regards, Ivan

    1. Hello Ivan,

      Nice to hear from you. Since your question is of a personal nature, I am going to respond to you by email. Please check your email after an hour to see my reply.

      Cheers,

      Lucky

    2. Hi Ivan,

      You have not entered into a mutual exclusivity covenant of any kind, so she should be free to pursue relationships as she pleases. Besides, if you really love her, you should want her to do whatever makes her happy!

  4. hi,
    I’m actually new to this whole thing. but I’m really interested despite people around me saying “I’m thinking to much into things, and i should just be” well thats what I’m trying to do! I’m practicing focusing on reading this article but thoughts, random thoughts ,just pop into my head, that have nothing to do about the article. More so about conversations i had early with my mom, or sometimes even mean thoughts like “oh that was a stupid question to ask” Even if i acknowledge that was a mean thought, it doesn’t make me feel better, am i naturally born to think mean things about people? I don’t even want too. I cannot combat the fact that everytime I try to relax, my heart skips a beat….then i think about it skipping a beat, which in turn makes me super anxious, I’m stuck in a vicious cycle, and I’m searching for advice, or what first step i should take to help control my anxiety about thinking thoughts of no value? How can i make my brain stop racing, in turn making my heart race?

    thank you so much
    kathleen-

    In the article the author wrote to connect your inner heart with the heart of the universe, that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. I would have never guessed that was a thing I could do, just wanted to share.

    1. Hi Kathleen,

      Let your thoughts flow; don’t be concerned about whether they are mean or noble. You are their silent witness.

      Take my free course and read all the posts on this blog. Pursue the meditation of your choice for 15 minutes a day. Persevere. Watch your life improve as a result!

  5. Hi i suffer from anxiety and depression… I got in a really good place once when i truly accepted that i had it. My thoughts would come and i would be able to seperate myself from them by saying things like ‘ah look a thought’ or ‘ i had a thought’something like that. The thoughts became fewer and less powerful each time and i felt in a place of complete bliss for about 3 months. However i now find myself in a mostly continuos cycle of anxiety and trying to get my head right. The thing is its not really thoughts as such that are driving me crazy its repetetive songs. I kno that the harder i try to get them to stop the longer they play and play until my head feels like its going to explode. Theres obviously thoughts connected to this as well. I was just wondering if anyone has any advice for me thank you xxx

    1. Hi,
      Interestingly enough, I had the exact same problem many decades ago. As I continued to learn about my mind, the remedy became obvious and I am now immune to that situation.
      The remedy is just to let the songs play and not try to do anything about it. Trust me, when you don’t do anything about it, it will stop in the course of time.

      In general, if you have worrisome thoughts about your mind, relax and let them pass. Do not ‘feed’ them, just sit back in your head (in a figurative sense) and be a pure witness to them and all other thoughts, carrying out actions some of them may suggest only when you feel such actions are appropriate.

      Give a good shot and you will definitely succeed. Sorry for my delay in replying, I have allowed you to suffer needlessly for two months!

  6. Hi. I am pleased to know. I can get help. Ian in a difficult time in my life. My mother is in hospice late stages of Alzheimer. And pneumonia. She is a little better but I just know it is a matter of time
    My 20 yr old daughter is doing her thing and no support in another state very far away with a crazy boyfriend. My 16 year
    has given me so much support. He was acting out but he turned his life around he is compassion. My mother is dieing but memoridse killing me we were soclso close. How do I detach.I am suffering.

    1. Your situation is indeed complex. You need to do many things at the same time to get in control.

      Firstly, about Mom, you have done everything you can. You must now accept the situation. It is the will of the Universe; I don’t mean to sound harsh, but you must realize that it is for the best.

      Keep giving your son and daugher advice. Ask other mature people to talk to them as well. Your daughter is an adult and is responsible for the road she travels. If she does not listen to you, she has only herself to blame.

      Spend as much time as possible with your son.

      Most importantly, spend 10 minutes a day in meditation, prayer or chanting.

      Take action and you SHALL succeed!

      Best,

      Lucky

  7. Hi. You had mentioned first person thoughts. I have found myself identifying with such thoughts and you said that those thoughts speaking are not the Awareness. Does that mean that my basic nature does not speak or express? Thank you

    1. Hi Minnie,

      I appreciate your question and your keenness to locate your inner peace. You are one of a fortunate few.

      Yes. Your basic nature is a silent witness. Your thoughts and sensory inputs are what it witnesses.

      Lucky

  8. Hi lucky,

    Ive been looking in to the idea of detaching from thoughts to deal with anxiety issues for a long time. First of all thanks for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us and thank you for being so supportive.

    I have two questions:

    1) while the idea of inhabiting the real you sounds amazing, I wonder, if you are treating all thoughts and emotions as separate from yourself (the real you) will you ever be truly happy? Are you not numbing yourself from pain and negative emotions etc but sacrificing any positive ones you may get? You would then not be miserable etc but you would not be happy either because you are simply observing things from a distance as opposed to basking in the joy of positive things? I guess I dont want to become an un-emotional robot!

    2) my second issue is that I feel that my quest for detaching from thoughts has led me to to become very unsatisfied, constantly searching for the “right” way to train my brain etc. i feel i am not overloaded with different types of practices etc. I now wish to narrow it down to basics. Do you think that if I practice what you said above for 10 minutes a day then that is all I need and would be enough to quiten the mind and be more peaceful? If not what do you reccomend?

    Thanks again! Looking forward to hearing from you!

    1. Hi Lazy,

      About being a robot: Look, I was fully into scuba-diving into my emotions for several years. The happy moments were a blast but the “unhappy” ones really got me down, so much so that I resolved to find a way to rid me of them. After much searching, study and practice I found a solution that worked (am SO grateful to the Universe for it).

      It all boils down to which state of mind is most satisfying. If you are happy riding your emotions like you would a roller-coaster, then maybe you should keep riding. If you feel more comfortable standing on the ground and watching the roller coaster, then maybe you should do that instead. I chose the latter position, and as far as I am concerned, it is a BILLION times better than the former. I will never, EVER go back to the former.

      About training your brain: Don’t try making your mind behave this way or that. That’s a pain in the you-know-what. Take it easy. Just sit back and watch it. Let it think what it wants (there are no “good thoughts” or “bad thoughts”). If your thoughts suggest an action (like “I should turn my computer on now” or “I’d like to kiss/slap that person”) then decide whether you want to perform it or not. If you perform it, the suggestion will cease; if you do not perform it, the suggestion will persist (do not yield to it; it will give up and subside after a while).

      About the ten minutes a day, this is to help you identify the “basic you”, which is the inherent state of inner peace we all possess. That done, you should increasingly try to reside in it as a sort of base of operations. It takes practice to do this, and your daily life is the best practice ground, specifically, times when you are disturbed or upset. In those circumstances, stay silent and count to ten, breathing deeply. Then remind yourself that whatever upset you were only thoughts, that they were like sounds coming out of a music player (your brain) and that they are not “you.” Then momentarily try and retreat into the “basic you” to reassure yourself that it is still there, unshakable, invincible, a witness to thought, separate from thought and unaffected by thought.

      Keep doing this over time and you will gradually cease being disturbed by anything. You will be contented, calm and peaceful at all times.

      Best,

      Lucky

  9. Hi,
    Just stumbled upon you’r site. Let’s see…a thought comes to my mind.I stand aside and watch this thought. This ‘I’ is me and the thought is an object. Now isn’t this ‘I’ a thought too? So I stand back and become aware of this ‘I’ watching the thought. Now this I too is a thought. So I stand back and become aware of this I that is aware of the first I that is aware of the thought. Its like standing between two mirrors the reflections never end. Where does this lead me to???

    1. Wait a minute, wait a minute, Samrat… you took a wrong turn early in your question. The ‘I’ that watches thoughts is not a thought. It is a state of pure watchfulness. All thoughts occur in its presence. It is in everyone, including you. Locating it should be made a research project. It will take a while, but all those who keep at it, FIND IT!

  10. I find that whenever I drop the role of a thought-developer, become aware of the thoughts and step aside, the thought automatically disappears instantly, because there is no one to keep it alive. Then another thought pops up and I repeat the process. What keeps on happening is that I end up “killing” (sorry for such a harsh word) the thoughts with my so-called observation. I do it again and again many times a minute. I’m not sure if this is what is meant by “observing your thoughts”. I’d like to hear if anyone has been in a similar place.

    1. I guess what I’m trying to ask is, would it be possible to detach from thoughts without making them disappear and instead observe them developing? But who is going to develop them? I am a little confused…

    2. Hi Kristina

      As mentioned in my earlier reply, I think you are not stepping back from all your thoughts, specifically ‘first person’ thoughts. For instance, even the question in your above comment… it came to your mind as a thought, but you did not recognize it as one, because you believed it was ‘you’ speaking (that’s what I mean by a ‘first person’ thought). Step back from all such first-person thoughts and you will be calm, free from doubt and ‘wise’ as well!

    3. Another thing that interests me is what exactly is meant by thoughts. There’s this inner voice chatter, then there’s visual imagination in the mind’s eye, there’s sound creation/repetition in one’s mind. The one that is probably most worth addressing is the inner chatter. However, then there is a fourth one: plain emotional reactions to a situation without any thoughts. What do you do then? Imagine that you’re not the emotion, and that it’s only happening to your body and it will pass in a while, relax?

      I’d appreciate some input from someone who’s been doing this for a while.

    4. Whichever of the above phenomena it is, Kristina, your job is just to be a silent, still witness. May I also suggest sitting still for 10 minutes a day, during which time you should detach yourself from all thoughts and sensory inputs, and just be, be, BE… in other words, withdraw into the ‘basic you’, which is your ‘sense of being’.

      I appreciate the effort you are taking to attain inner peace. PLEASE ask me if you have further questions, I will lead you to the treasure just like my great teacher led me.

    5. Thank you Lucky Balaraman.

      I get your point. We’ll see where this leads…
      I’ll definitely come back should there be anything I’d want to ask. Thanks for the support, again.

    6. Hi Kristina,

      I would like to question your basic process. You say you are “doing” something. The correct procedure is be a pure witness. If you are ‘doing’ something, please move back and motionlessly (mentally) witness all the ‘doing’, i.e. all the thoughts involved in the ‘doing’ process.

      My hunch is that there are still many ‘first-person’ thoughts that you are not stepping back from. You are identifying with those thoughts; you think they are ‘you’ speaking. Realize that they too are thoughts, and that you are the one who is aware of them (just as in the case of other thoughts). Think long and deep about what I just said and try to understand it. Ask me for more guidance if you need to.

  11. This all sounds good and all, and believe me, a definite step in the right direction to what I can hopefully call “enlightenment”, but shouldn’t being at peace make you happy? Isn’t happiness what enlightenment is all about? I guess what I’m asking is: Can you do this, and still hold on to the happiness, as if it’s a bird that you want to keep as a pet? Would it still work the same way?

    1. Gabe:

      Being at peace IS the state of happiness. Being at peace means you realize that you are the backdrop in front of which thoughts are active, just like the backdrop of a stage. The backdrop is always perfectly still and unaffected by what the actors are doing.

      In the case of a living being, the backdrop is ‘an aware backdrop’, i.e. it is aware of the actors acting in front of it (the actors are thoughts).

      Please think about this carefully and come back to me with your next question. Discovering inner peace is something that has to be done gradually (like learning tennis!).

      Best,

      Lucky

  12. I came into this one because of my search for the answer to my questions. I am currently on a course where the fourth stage is awakening where by grace i should be awakened . One step is this , to separate myself from my body, thought and emotions. Since i still couldnt imagine how to do it exactly, I came to this site. Now after reading what you wrote here, somehting was added to what I knew, thanks ! Let me ask you, if I meditate few minutes everyday doing what you told, will it come to me even without me knowing it?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Jane,

      In reality nothing ‘comes’ to you. You gradually realize your true nature. A rough analogy is like this: you are a poor vegetable seller in a kingdom. Then, by reading official birth-death records, you slowly realize that you are actually the queen of the kingdom, the queen who was kidnapped at birth. You then claim and assume your rightful throne. (Nothing came to you, you just found something out).

      To answer your question, yes, if you meditate for at least five minutes a day, you CAN realize that you are basically unshakably peaceful. But of course, the kind of meditation you do is important. Let me know what you’re doing and I can give you further guidance.

      Best,

      Lucky

      /////

  13. ‘Who is aware of the thought?’ — Say it is me/I. Is being aware of the thoughts an inherent ability of the ‘I’ ? Why is it then that ‘I’ am not aware of my thoughts when i am deep asleep?
    If thoughts are just manifestations of just neuronal activities (which it is) and if there is a distinct real ‘I’ that is very different from my thoughts why is that ‘I’ am not able to perceive your thoughts but able to perceive mine? Dont you think that in that case the act of awareness / perception itself is a manifestation of neuronal activity of my brain albeit of a different kind from the one which gives rise to the thoughts?
    May be this method gives some peace to troubled minds. Let it. But is there a logical flaw in my above argument?

  14. Hi, nice post really. Regarding the emotions I agree I AM not them, but aint they a guideline for us since they are there to help us survive from an evolution point of view…? I do not know is the question is clear. It was just a thought (which IS NOT ME by the way¨…) 🙂

    1. Love your answer, Jordi. Emotions might be part of the human mind’s evolution, yes. But as a guideline for you… let me ask you something, who is the ‘you’ you’re talking about? If it is Stillness or Awareness, there is no movement possible and therefore no following of guidelines possible.

    1. I’m happy that you are free-flying beyond the confines of your mind. You are most fortunate. Will definitely stop by your blog and leave a comment.
      Best
      Lucky

    2. After reading The Power of Now, I felt liberated. When I awoke to my true nature, one of present moment awareness I no longer felt any suffering or affliction. Every pain and hurt I had was of the past and of the future. In that moment there only me in the present moment. Unburdened. Tears flowed from my eyes and I cannot describe the feeling I had. It was peace. However fleeting, that moment marked me profoundly.

  15. Great post, I was thinking last night how I should not act out of fear or emotion. Empirically I found it to be self-deceptive. I will practice consulting and relying on the spirit of the Universe! Admirably and respectfully, prana8.

    1. Realize that fear and emotion are perceived, and not part of “you the observer.” Then deal with them; your actions will be optimal.

  16. v beautifully explained. but to most,its when putting it to practice, comes the difficulty..for, to a ‘layman’it more often does sound dull,to think having no ’emotions’ or feelings.. & it took me 3 full months now, to ‘start seeing’ your point..!! THANKS.. 🙂

    1. Hi SS, glad you’re putting your finger on the “basic you.”

      Most importantly, thoughts and emotions continue, but you are separate from them… it’s like they’re a movie and you’re in the audience.

    1. Glad it was of help, Miriam. The “basic you” is real and has been there since you were in your mother’s womb…

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