If you’ve ever gone hiking in the woods, or better yet, camping, you may have spooked yourself into thinking that the giant crunching noise in the distance is a grizzly bear or a yeti. This happened to me recently when I was hiking solo on a yoga retreat. I was meandering along checking out the flora and fauna that I couldn’t name to save my life when I heard what sounded like a heard of wild boar crushing sticks and leaves not too far from me.
As the sound got closer, I felt myself start to panic and devise a plan to survive the attack. The louder the noise got, the closer I was to certain death. Finally, the animals causing the ruckus rushed towards and passed me. Chipmunks. Seriously, chipmunks. I laughed out loud for several minutes, and then pondered how we give our own thoughts the same amount of “woods” cred, because we allow them to seem much bigger than they are. In reality, when you observe your thoughts, they are nothing more than restless chipmunks.
Think about a time when you let your thoughts take on a horrifying life of their own and had you convinced that they were real; that you were in immediate danger; and that you should be ready to fight for your life. The truth is our minds are no more than grizzlies in chipmunk clothing, and if we allow ourselves to observe them for what they are, we begin to realize that there is nothing at all to be afraid of.
Our thoughts tend to get greedy if we let them, too. The more we give ourselves to unconsciousness, the more unconsciousness sucks us in, like the gluttonous chipmunk with two cheeks full of acorns. Let them go. There will always be plenty of mind activity, no need to store up for an apocalypse.
Let the chipmunk run in the woods
Of course, observing our thought patterns doesn’t mean stifling them. We have to be willing to let them exist without trying to confine them. It’s our attempt to stifle or suppress our thoughts that cause suffering. Allowing them to be, separate from ourselves sets us as free as the chipmunk itself.
Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny. Upanishads
– Your Charmed Yogi
Photo: National Wildlife Federation