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For example when I'm feeling a little anxious, I might think "I'm feeling threatened". These thoughts makes me feel like I am not actually being mindful, because if I actually were then I wouldn't need to think about it, you know? It's kinda hard to explain, but I feel like I'm just fooling myself into believing I'm observing myself, when it's actually all happening within my thoughts.

What's going on here? Am I misunderstanding something?

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In my opinion, you are not misunderstanding something. You are being true.

Many teachers & gurus say thoughts can be observed. I personally disagree here (unless the thoughts are very subtle and very infrequent).

In my experience, thinking & observing are antagonistic. When the mind thinks, it is not particularly observant. When the mind is truly observant, it rarely thinks.

To genuinely observe anxiety, attention should be drawn to the tremblings or vibrations of the body (the nervous system) and shortness of the breathing. Try to feel the emotion, mood or feeling of anxiety; the pressure in the head (brain) & body, etc.

That said, it is not easy to do this. If you try, you may need to regularly let go of observing & do some breathing out. The important thing is to trust it is impermanent or a passing mood; like a storm temporarily clouding a clear sky.

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If you're feeling a little anxious and you think "I'm feeling threatened", you are being mindful.

Being mindful, you observe the arising of anxiety and you think: "I'm feeling threatened".

If you think that your thought "I'm feeling threatened" is yourself, you're fooling yourself into believing "I'm observing myself".

If you think the arising of anxiety is yourself, you're fooling yourself into believing "I'm observing myself".

If you think that you're observing yourself feeling anxious, you're fooling yourself into believing "I'm observing myself".

When a thought "I'm observing myself" arise, you're fooling yourself into believing "I'm observing myself".

When any phenomena arises and you observe it, you're fooling yourself into believing "I'm observing".

Are you fooling yourself?

Your thoughts make you feel like you're not observing yourself, because if you actually were then there wouldn't be thoughts.

Your thoughts make you feel like you're fooling yourself into believing you're observing yourself, because if you actually were to observe yourself then there would be nothing to observe.

Just like when you throw a ball and you say to yourself "I'm observing the ball, thus I'm not the ball." in the same way you arise thoughts (or feelings, or anxiety, or any other phenomena) and say to yourself "I'm observing my thoughts, thus I'm not my thoughts. I feel I'm just fooling myself into believing I'm observing myself."

Find the cause of the arising of thoughts (or feelings, or anxiety, or any other phenomena), remove that cause and you'll know yourself.

In knowing yourself is the path to liberation.

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  • ...because you stop fooling your self in to believing that there is anyone or any liberation to be had. You just stop selfing. – user2341 Apr 17 '17 at 13:07

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