WATCHING MOVIES ON AIRPLANES
A thought arises. This triggers a feeling, which (a lot of the time) is related to anxiety. Fear leads to another thought, which in turn triggers another feeling. And the whole thing begins all over again.
Habitually, we go through life caught in this cycle, and it happens so fast that we don’t even notice. After a while we’re so deeply identified that we just assume that our thoughts and our feelings are all there are.
It’s a little like going to the movies, and getting so involved in the plot that we forget that we’re really only looking at still images made of light projected onto a blank screen. We forget the projector, the screen, and the theater. We become the movie.
That’s the main reason why we feel a vague sense of discontent most of the time. There’s always a nagging feeling that there’s just got to be more to life. And that we’re watching the movie version of our lives, instead of the real thing.
The only way (that I know of) to get off this merry-go-round is to step back, and decide watch the thoughts and feelings instead.
This can seem counter-intuitive at first, a little like a camera trying to take a picture of itself. But pay attention long enough, and and watching ourselves becomes habitual. We notice thoughts and feelings arise and float off. Often our attention drifts — and then we wake up hours or days later, and only to remember that we forgot.
Do this for long enough, and thoughts don’t seem so serious any more. We realize they are just a very small part of who we are, and even though they keep arising, we only choose to pay attention to them (or not) when we need to.
When that happens, moments of our life become much more vivid and interesting. And we realize, to our surprise, that there's something else here as well.