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Thought-Birds on a Wire

Posted in Adventures With Humans

Birds on a Wire

Central to studies in Mindfulness and Buddhism is the idea that your thoughts are not you. You have thoughts, but they are impermanent, and untouchable; they don’t exist as things. You don’t wake up in the morning and step carefully on tip-toe to the bathroom as your floor is littered with what you were thinking about yesterday.

“What’s that on your sock?”

“Oh, it’s two of the thoughts I had yesterday: one is my crinkled, well-worn but robust thought about imposter syndrome, and the other is–hang on, it’s torn–oh it’s something about my self-doubt. Funny, I thought that last one would have been bigger.”


“Let’s see, I have my keys, my passport, bathing suit and my thoughts are all packed and ready to go.”

This concept about our thoughts is a good one. I’ve been working on assimilating it into my groove since I began this process in the spring, but the other morning, during yoga, something clicked and it wasn’t my hip. I don’t remember which pose I was arranged into. My eyes were closed and it was as if I was looking through a sepia-tinted window at black birds flying through my noggin and on to a hydro wire–and I swear that I had not taken drugs or licked a frog. Yes, my thoughts were flying through my brain like birds. My body was just a thing, and as easy as it was to allow the birds in, I could also shoo them out. The duration of thought-birds roosting in my head was all up to me, and with a simple decision, I could let them pass through; they didn’t have to stay inside my head and wreak havoc as I had previously believed since forever.
It was a significant yoga session. Not only did I experience this understanding about thoughts, but I felt bizarrely grounded. It was the first time that I felt that my feet were fully soft into the floor here; the sensation was unique enough to notice. I believe that this  whole experience was about a deeper understanding of being–a presence in the moment. There was no past or future, it was all then, which would have been now, if the now was then. Get me?  The trick is to not get attached to the moment. You do so at the detriment and crowding of the next moment. Don’t get moments confused with the thought-birds. You’ll be a ridiculous mess. The main take-away is that when you stop housing fearful, worriesome thoughts of the past or the future in your head, you can finally be present in the moment, and that is where your power resides. That is where the possibility of connection lives; you are here, not there. You can depend on here. You never get there, because it’s always…there, then.
This is all fine in the yoga studio. The challenge for me, since I am several-trains-and-an-axe-handle away from being enlightened, comes after the mat is rolled up and I am faced with the world in a dumpster fire, yet here come the Christmas ads as if everything is normal. Are we, as a species, that monumentally dumb? Scrolling through Twitter is like some surreal nightmare, and then on a different scale, am I actually living alone, taking care of my mother? Did my marriage really tank? Why did I buy these shoes? Right now, I question the reality of even a cheese sandwich. But, since other life components(compassion) have raised themselves for my perusal as a result of my commitment to seeking the the middle way, I’m going to take this thought-bird drop seriously and see what happens. This doesn’t mean running around like a blissful idiot, but I might not be overcome by suffocating thoughts of fear, doubt, and unworthiness; I can let those birds go. In the process, I may inch closer to discovering my true essence, and possibly enjoy a nice cheese sandwich along the way, that is, unless the birds get to it first.