Most of us are familiar with phrases such as 'I lost myself in a good book' or "for a while I was lost in the magic of the spectacle'. A pleasurable state is usually associated with such experiences.
Those who try more physically destructive ways to temporarily escape suffering, such as alcohol or drugs, will use phrases like 'I am going to get out of my mind tonight'.
For many centuries, those who have looked deeply at the problems of human existence have proposed that the way to achieve unshakable happiness is to permanently stop identifying with our thoughts, to completely drop the small 'self' or ego that is at the root of all our problems. This approach is echoed today in modern spiritual best-sellers such as Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now. It seems that the idea strikes a chord deep inside a large number of people.
Interestingly, the English word 'ecstasy' derives from the Greek word 'ekstasis', which means to stand outside of oneself.
I have stated before on this website something that a lot of people are rather reluctant to accept:-
All problems are created by ourselves inside our own minds.
I will rephrase that slightly here for a different emphasis:-
All problems are created by our SELVES, which are invented by our minds.
All problems are created as a result of identifying ourselves as 'a person', believing that the thoughts that run through our minds are who we are, that the voices we hear in our heads are 'me' talking to 'myself'. Most people take this for granted. It seems so obvious to them that they never question it at all.
But I would like to suggest that thoughts are as automatic as breathing. Just try stopping thinking for just 30 seconds or a minute. Unless you have practised meditation, it is very unlikely that you will be able to do this. It is just like breathing. You can stop for a little while, but after just a short period, the automatic mechanism takes over once more. Just like you are forced to begin breathing again after a short while holding your breath, you are forced to begin thinking again after just a short period without thought. Also, if you try to direct your thoughts in a certain direction, you can do this for a short while, but very soon automatic thoughts will come back. This is what we call 'being unable to concentrate'. It is just like if you try to breathe in an unnatural pattern. You can do it for a short while, but unless you have trained hard at it, you cannot keep it up for very long.
So, if you can neither stop nor control your thoughts, then why is it that you think that they are 'your' thoughts? Why do you automatically assume the voices you hear in your head are you? It would seem more logical to assume that they are not you at all. You have no control. How can they be you? Once you realise that they are not, then suddenly you will attain a certain freedom. You may be unable to stop the thoughts from passing through the mind, but because you have realised that they are not 'your thoughts' and not 'you', you can now pick and choose whether you wish to listen to them or to afford them any credibility.
If another person comes up to you and says something, then you have a certain amount of natural doubt. You do not usually accept what they say automatically. You will question it to see if it seems to make sense, to see if there is any evidence to support it. But when a thought in your own mind says something to you, you tend to just accept it without question, because these are 'your thoughts' so they must be right, they must be accurate. Because of this, we can often put up with all kinds of negativity and abuse from the thoughts in our own heads that we would not dream of accepting from another individual. The thoughts in our heads berate us harshly for tiny mistakes. They invent negative possible futures to frighten the bejeesus out of us. They whisper thoughts of jealousy and anger in our ears. If it were another person doing all this on a regular basis, we would quickly stop associating with that person.
It is not so easy to avoid the thoughts which pass through your own mind. You cannot stop going to the same pub as them. You cannot cross the street to avoid a conversation. But once you free yourself of the false notion that they are 'your thoughts', then you can at least make a decision about which ones you are going to listen to and which ones you are going to discard. You can question them to see whether what is being said has any substance to it. The good news is that once you start doing this, the voices you continually give no attention will tend to get fed up with that lack of attention and stop speaking. The voices that are saying things which are not true will be shown up as liars and heeded no more.
Once you 'stand outside yourself', then you are free to choose which thoughts to listen to and you are also free to listen to none at all. You can let mind churn away on its own. You do not have to pay any attention, just like you do not ordinarily pay any attention to your breathing pattern or just like you can pay no attention to the radio even though it is still switched on. You can just let thought happen. If for some reason you need to use the mind, for instance if you are performing a task which requires logical reasoning, then you can do so. You can concentrate and direct thought for a short period until your task is complete, then you can let go of mind once more. You do not have to waste your energy listening to its incessant babble.
Practice 'standing outside yourself' for just a few weeks and it is likely that you will begin to get an understanding of the true meaning of the word ecstasy.
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