Observing Thoughts

A man comes to a revered master and implores, “Please, help me. I am suffering immensely. I am restless. Please, pacify my mind.” The wise man replies, “Show me your mind and I will pacify it.” Unable to fulfill the request, the man leaves. After some time he returns with the same plea, “Master, please, help me. I am suffering. I am afflicted. Please, pacify my mind.” Once again the wise man commands, “Show me your mind and I will pacify it.”  The man responds,“Master, I looked for my mind everywhere, but I could not find it.” “There!” says the teacher, “It’s already pacified.”


There are those times when we are thinking without realizing that we are thinking. Thoughts are running amok, but we are unable to notice that we have been carried away by them and that we are lost in them. We hop on a train of thought and travel on it for a long distance and time. Then we make an immediate connection, hop on another train of thought, and do the same. And we keep going, jumping from train to train, without ever disembarking. We go through life as if we were anesthetized and numb, lost in thoughts. We are not awake; we are sleepwalking through life.

Then comes a magic moment of awakening and awareness, when we catch ourselves thinking, and we engage in an exploration: “Oh, I have been thinking. What have I been thinking? Where did this thought come from? ”

We begin to notice that the appearance of thoughts have no logic, that they appear and go away randomly, only to be replaced by other thoughts that pop up in a chaotic, unorganized fashion. This realization is very liberating. When we realize that we are carrying an independent thought-producing machine that keeps creating thoughts on its own, we are free to separate ourselves from our thoughts. We can calmly remind ourselves, “I can see that this is just a though created by the independent thought-producing machine, and I am not this thought.”

Then we reflect on the moment of mindfulness:“Wow! I’m able to observe thoughts without being carried away by them. This is pretty cool! What happened when I became aware of the thought: did it get stronger, weaker, or did it fade away?”

As we get more curious, we may ask ourselves: “And what is a thought anyway? What is this thing we call ‘thought?’  What can I say about a thought? Actually, not much: a thought is pretty much nothing. It’s ephemeral and lacks substance. Thoughts are just thoughts.”

And as the inquiry continues, other questions arise, such as, “Who is having these thoughts? Who is doing the thinking? Who is the thinker?” and to add even another level of complexity to the exploration, another question emerges: “And who is asking all these questions?”

As we continue with this mindfulness practice, we soon begin to free ourselves from these dictators of the mind, and we become able to ponder, “Why do I spend so much time and energy with thoughts? Thoughts are not real. Thoughts are just thoughts. They are here one moment, and they soon vanish.”

And whenever we notice that we are enthralled in the drama, we can remember to say to ourselves, “It’s just a thought!”

The truth is that no matter how thoroughly we may look for the one who is doing the thinking and the one who is asking the questions, we will not be able to find anyone. There’s no one to be found. The mystery is that we know that we are knowing, but we don’t know who is knowing. The one who is knowing cannot be found.

It is a quandary, and realizing that we cannot find the mind, that we cannot find who is doing the thinking, and that we cannot find who is asking the questions, is the finding. Not finding the mind is the finding. Not finding who is doing the thinking is the finding. Not finding who is asking the questions is the finding. Not finding is the finding.

Yes, sometimes the saying, “Life is a mystery to be lived, not an enigma to be solved” makes perfect sense.


“It’s just a thought. Thoughts are not real. Thoughts are just thoughts. Thoughts think themselves. I am not my thoughts.”


Perhaps you may enjoy reading the poem Who Am I When I Am Not?



Piero Falci is an author and educator who believes that the inner work that leads to personal awakening and transformation is indispensable to create a wholesome world. He is an explorer of the mysteries of life who loves to observe, reflect, and write, and who not only strives to live a life that matters, but also hopes to inspire others to do the same. He is a promoter of peace who believes in advancing the idea that Heaven is here if we want it to be. He teaches mindfulness meditation, mindful living, and the acclaimed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program as taught at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He organizes Silent Peace Walks.


Take a look at these books at the Peaceful Ways online store


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– “Peaceful Ways – The Power of Making Your Wishes Come True”

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– “Pay Attention! Be Alert! Discovering Your Route to Happiness”


– “Silent Peace Walk”


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