I do not know what this struggle about “stopping thought” is.
Everyone from the most intelligent to the dullest does it several times each night in deep sleep without any effort whatsoever!
It happens all the time when you are stunned by something sudden — a surprise, a life-threatening or life-enhancing situation, a beautiful object (person, scene, painting, art), in love.
Secondly, the world itself is a mentation (thought) — remember, the world includes your body-mind, mental thought etc.
Also, have you not observed that breath is closely related to thought — slow down breath, thoughts slow down; end breathing totally and thought ends – but that is called ‘death’ often. 🙂
Q: “Thought is more or less running my life, instead of me just being…”
There is a subtle but a great mis-understanding in that statement.
It shows as if there is a poor helpless victim, a “me” having a life of my own and there is an extraneous another entity, ‘thought,’ which has usurped the controls of my life and ‘running my life’ as per its whims and fancies, thus ruining my “just being.”
Please notice the presence of how many things you have postulated here — a ‘me’; an extraneous usurper, thought; a life which I suppose is in my possession; the action of ‘running life’ etc. — a multiplicity!
If you understand and use the various “inquiry tools” provided by Advaita, you will know that:
- At any time there is only One – not multiple things.
- There is no separate “me” other than that current thought. (Can you identify the ‘me’ and the current controlling thought as two clear entities at any given moment?)
- There is no activity called “Life” separate from whatever is going on at the moment.
- There is no distinct ‘beingness’ which just will be present only if and iff the thought does not control.
In fact, Life is the entire “whatever-is-going-on + thought + ‘me’ + …”
And that unfragmented Oneness which is not divvied is the “just Beingness” from moment to moment.
That is the natural state. That is the True “ME.”
The True Me which is Infinite (perhaps a better word is Dimensionless) Itself raises at that moment as a finite ‘thought wave’ (a vibration) and perceives “Whatever-Is.” That perceiving of Itself through the finite vibration shows a world much like a single white beam of light appears with multiple colors after passing through a prism.
I will like to give a very approximate analogy to help knowing Oneness.
Think of a large uniform clean, neat shining white bed sheet nicely stretched and spread flat without wrinkles. Is any one particular spot on the sheet distinguishable from the other? No, all spots (locations) are uniform, identical and homogeneous — in fact, there is no possible way to demarcate and distinctly identify a single spot by setting a boundary around it. Every spot you may select is within that One continuous whole sheet which is undivided into parts.
Now give a shake in a corner or a side of the sheet.
What will happen?
Some waves will form and as you lay the sheet down, the flat stretch is gone. The sheet gets folded. It raises up as hills in some places. At some other places, it shows depressions. Some depressions may be big; others narrow and small. Some hills may be conical, some trapezoid-like and so on and on. Many shapes and sizes can be distinguished. The One huge uniform sheet lost its absolute symmetry. Several shapes with some boundaries can be identified. You can give distinct names to those shapes like a hill, a cone, a depression, a long valley etc. The sheet does not look as an undivided whole anymore. It looks like a composite of several shapes conglomerated together.
Imagine one more thing. Think that the sheet is fluorescent. When it was in the undisturbed flat disposition, it would have been appearing like a single sheet of self-luminescent brilliantly shining light plane. Say, this luminescence has also the power to sense and know things like a detector probe. Please note that there is no-thing outside itself as a specially acquired ‘quality’ to sense or detect. It is all intrinsically within that one wholeness. That sensing quality or knowing capacity is It Itself.
But once the perturbation happens (like giving the shake), the hills and valleys produce variations in the shade of the luminescent light. Some spots may appear slightly less bright, others may be more bright (in a relative sense only – remember that the entire sheet is self-luminescent, there are originally no inherent differences in the luminosity).
Now add another layer of imagination.
Think that one little depression, not exactly circular, but having an odd shape, imagines itself to be different and thinks that it exists separate from the rest of the sheet. With that thought arising, it calls everything that is within the imagined thought as “me” and all things outside the boundary of the imagined thought as “not-me” or the “world.”
Its basic ‘ability’ to imagine, sense and know the other things like a hill etc. surrounding it exists because of that self-luminescence at every spot of the big sheet. The small depressed spot begins to feel bad that its shape is odd, it is lying lower to the tall fellow, the hill, next to it. The hill appears to shine with more light and seems to throw its brilliance to a greater distance. The little depression feels sad because it is not like that hill. It wants to become like that hill. When it learns finally that it cannot succeed in its aim, it wants even to destroy that hill.
You can concoct all sorts of stories as further extension on the above theme. Say a sudden gust of wind happened to change the size or shape of that hill. The depression may misappropriate the power to have reduced the size of the hill to itself or think that its worshiping of a powerful ‘wind god’ helped achieve its desire ———- and so on.
Stop here for a minute. Hold your horses of weaving imaginative stories.
Question yourself now.
Was that ‘depression’ at any point of time existing separately from the totality of the sheet? Is it really different and independent of the hills and other shapes it imagines to be external to itself?
Is there any action it can take to become the whole one sheet again? Has it at any point of time stopped being the whole sheet?
What action should it take to feel itself within the Totality of Oneness?
It has to just remember that it never left the whole oneness. It is only its fanciful thinking that it is separate brings in the separation. There are strictly speaking no rigid brick-wall like rigid boundaries around itself but for its own mistaking of the ‘shades’ (caused by the changes in relief) as walls of separation.
Yes, when the depression feels hungry needing some energy input, it may look for food. It eats what it gets. But it knows one day, the imaginary boundary wall around itself will collapse and it will die. It then automatically is within the whole Oneness.
The most important key element in this is to first totally totally UNDERSTAND and be convinced that the small luminescent depression is non-different from and within the totality of the planar sheet.
And then stay with that understanding.
Q: “In deep sleep, there is no thought. True freedom, our natural state. “
All states are natural as they are. Whatever appears as Deep Sleep is Itself taking other states like Awake and Dream. Have you at anytime observed some “foreign elements from an unknown place outside” coming and taking over the deep sleep and changing it into another form?
Q: “To be natural is what we are meant to be, is it not.”
As Shankara puts it, You are nitya suddha buddha mukta svabhAvaH.
You are by your very svabhAva (natural state) eternally pure, ever-knowing and ever-free. There is no moment when you are not. The apparent ‘form’ taken at any moment is not substantive.