What If I’m Right?

The most horrifying thought facing anybody prone to negative self thoughts is that they might actually be right. The nature of our thoughts is that they seem right to us. We think things in such an authoritative way that, as we think them, we confirm them. Alan Watts liked to propose the perplexing possibility that, if you can’t trust your thoughts, how can you trust that you can’t trust you thoughts? Such is the nature of thinking. Some thoughts are right, some are wrong, and it is hard to tell which is which. From a Zen perspective, there is a simple answer, don’t think.

It is not so easy not to think. Thoughts think up themselves. We think up ourselves. We think we are this and we think we are that and this and that are good and bad and true and false and right and wrong and black and white and grey. The simple answer of not thinking is not simple at all. It sounds idealistic and impossible, possible, possibly for highly trained monks and sages, but not practical for practical people. Not thinking is not possible for practical thinking people. However, the thought of not thinking is possible. We are constantly exposed to sounds we don’t hear, sights we don’t see, and thoughts we don’t notice. We systematically ignore all these things because we only have so much focus available to us. When a thought occurs to us that we are not good enough, smart enough, this enough, or that enough, that thought comes with an emotional value that demands our attention and takes our attention away from another thought that could be useful. All the useful thinking we do to try to protect ourselves from those kinds of thoughts get swept aside by the lurking possibility of what if that horrible thought is right?

Right or wrong, that horrible thought is a thought. It might be here, it might be there. That horrible thought about you creates you. Here or there, good or bad, it contributes to what you think you are. You are not that. You are that, and something else.

When your mind is a peaceful palace, any thought is an intruder. If your palace is on fire, any thought is a flame. If you ever catch yourself thinking about yourself, good or bad, remember that you are both right and wrong. Beneath all that thinking there is peace and wisdom. Whenever you can stop your thinking and stop thinking yourself, you are alright. Right where you are.


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