Thought stream. Woman escaping her thought stream and living in the moment.

You’re not Who You Think You Are—Escaping the Thought Stream

It’s so much better to see things as they truly, actually are,

not as we’ve made them in our minds.

~Ryan Holiday

We all have narrators for our lives.

A regular stream of thoughts is something very natural and normal that most of us have. If managed intentionally, it can be a welcome and insightful companion (See Inner Dialogue). However, if given free rein, it can be a ceaseless heckler, a neurotic worrier, or a naysaying Eeyore (or any combination of the above). It is important to remember that our streams of thoughts are not reality, nor do they even reflect reality. The only reality is our moment-to-moment existence and experience. Our thought streams are also not who we are. We aren’t characters in our stories who have to follow the plots, we are the creators of the stories.

Recognizing your thoughts for what they are

Your moment-to-moment thought stream can be a mishmash of commentary on your experiences, critiques of your words and actions, and interpretations of others’ behavior toward you. Sometimes these thoughts can be very negative and harsh. Sometimes they focus only on worst-case scenarios. Very often, they include conclusions about events that are driven by your neuroses and that have little basis in reality. We can control our thought streams, but first we have to be aware of them. Many pay almost no attention to the contents of their thought streams beyond reacting to them. They don’t realize where they come from or that they’re having negative effects on them. The first step in managing our thought streams is to recognize them for what they are and to become aware of their consequences. We have to accept that they don’t represent reality.

Accepting the moment as the only true reality

You have a choice. You can either live with reality, in all its glory and wonder, or you can accept your own manufactured reality, which you create in your head, with all of its blemishes, problems, and dramas. It’s all about perspective and what you choose to focus on. This doesn’t mean ignoring our responsibilities or running away from our conflicts; it means keeping them in perspective. It means recognizing that our interpretations of our life events are not the whole story (or even a small part of the story). It means, in the words of Sadhguru, “learning to discern the real from the illusory, what is existentially true from what is psychologically true.”[1] We can stay in the moment while living our busy lives if we remember that the moment and our place in it are the only true reality.

You’re not who you think you are

It would be all too easy to create a permanent link between your thought stream and your identity. But it’s important to not put too much stock in the ideas and conclusions contained in your thought stream. As was said earlier, they can be irrational, and it’s important to discern the rational from the irrational. If you can do that—if you can recognize even one thing in your thought stream that doesn’t make sense, you will be on your way toward extricating your identity from your thought stream and realizing that you are not your thoughts. Try to observe your thoughts as they happen, but remain on the outside looking in—observing the thinker and living in the moment. In this way, your identity will be tied to the moment alone and, thereby, to the true reality, and you will gain an accurate perspective on your thought stream.

This will allow you to escape harmful or painful events in your past or worrisome possibilities in your future and exist in the nonjudgmental and healthy present. It will allow you to realize your true self—your essential self—and to be true to that identity.

You’re not who you think you are—you’re someone better.


[1] Sadhguru. Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy.


The Voice that is Now

So many voices
   within and without
Telling a story
A reality made

They are always with me
   the voices, the stories,
They make me believe
Sowing doubt in my heart

The stories, so real,
   so compelling, persistent
It can seem that they
   Have to be true

Who are these voices
   that never stop speaking
Creating a reality
   I can’t help but believe

The voices berate me
   worry me, anger me
The stories convey
   The worst that can be

But then like a light
   ahead in the darkness
The present my rescue
   The moment is now

There is only one truth
   The voice that lives in me
There is only one voice—
   the voice that is now





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