Who are "They"?

How often have you heard someone start a conversation with, "They say that....."?

Whether it's a sound bite, expert opinion, or news commentary, our culture resorts to they as a reliable ally who are keeping us in the know— real time, plug-n-play format.

They are time savers, filling our mental database full of information. As technology rapidly evolves, we depend more and more on they.

They are tapped into Google, GPS and Wikipedia. They thrive off offering a plethora of “did you know” talking-points to friends and coworkers–Did you know the S&P was flat for a full decade? Did you know that butterflies taste with their feet?

The subtle trap is when 'they’ no longer becomes an information tool but an indisputable source.

Original thinking then recedes to the passenger side, as they begin to influence our minds, and creative thinking begins to shrink. Nobody intentionally wants to feel dependent, but before long, it becomes convenient to substitute our thinking for what they say, and misinformation can rapidly flourish. As Mark Twain quipped, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

Most of the time they are well-intentioned, but we just don't know the accuracy of the original source. Biases and dogma can readily slip into the unsuspecting mind if we're not paying close attention. Here’s where being the silent witness to our inner thoughts can protect us from buying into the hype and dipping us into unconscious reaction.

A great lesson is taken from Viktor Frankl’s epic book, Man’s Search for Meaning, where he draws the reader into his amazing biographic journey . Frankl, a psychotherapist and a prisoner of a Nazi concentration camp, was subjected to most atrocious crimes. Throughout his ordeal he realized something deeper within himself. The freedom to choose.  This was his core message to the world and it placed a much needed reminder in the history books.

This freedom is a gift every being has access to. Before reacting we have a choice; within that choice there is a “space” between stimulus and response. This profound yet simple realization allows us to be a witness to our thoughts rather than an unconscious participant.

Taking that simple moment to pause before responding makes a significant difference in our quality of action which over time lends to a dramatically improved life.

When They approach us, we always have the same choice. That flexibility in perception to decide what filters through our minds and hearts and how we react. When we’re not tied to our programmed mind, we begin to pay closer attention as an assiduous observer of our own activity. This requires a great deal of mindfulness.

Being a witness to our thoughts can sound overly simplistic, but please don’t let that dissuade you. There's a saying that poker that takes minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master. Similarly, It doesn’t require a heavy instruction manual to learn about observing one’s thoughts. It takes full attention. Every moment. Every second. It’s a central teaching from Zen masters, psychologists, and yoga practitioners.

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