Grasping The Illusory Nature Of Thought

By Leo Gura - May 9, 2016 | 54 Comments

What are thoughts?

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MikeEEE says:

My new hero.

If only for being able to talk into a camera for 50 minutes with no scene changes and being able to keep it interesting.

Since learning about your videos I have committed myself to a better approach to my spiritual leaning (and learning). I started meditating about a year ago, and I am up to about 30 minutes in the morning, so learning of your material has been synchronous.

I turn 40 next month, and I am setting a goal of 20 years (60) to reach what your preach. I’ve seen about 3 of your videos and am subscribed to your newsletter. Digging your content and your approach/style. Please do continue the greatness.

Wingwizard says:

Your videos keep on getting more and more profound and more aligned with reality as time passes. I am grateful to your work.

I have a question on meditation. I have reached an advanced stage in meditation as described in your ‘How to meditate deeper’ episode. While the effects of meditation have been highly productive for me, namely seeing more and more insights about my life, noting my own thoughts, relaxed state of mind, the backfiring of meditation has also been prominent. I have times when I feel very calm during and after meditation for days together, there have also been times when I have felt utterly disgusted and horrid and chaotic for weeks on end. Should I continue with meditatating? If so, why?

Leo Gura says:

The horrid times are the best!

Stay with it.

WingWizard says:

Rinpoche Mingyur once asked his students why they wanted to learn meditation. One of his students replied that he wanted to know why one meditates.

Mingyur said, ‘Good question’. Then he said, ‘Even I don’t know’. Then he started laughing. Why did an enlightened master say this?

Stella Lehn says:

no like button is apparent on the screen of this video
the ego can be silenced easily ,that is not enlightenment
this seeker has seen symbols over the fabric of every thing the eyes of this constructed body observes. Have you experienced that yet, or have you already stopped time?
what do you consider a lemon?

Demetrius says:

Only if I could of had you as a father. I wouldn’t have to struggle to become what I already know I am.

John says:

Fascinating video. I’ve always had an issue with fixations, especially ones of attachment and intimate relationships. I don’t stress too much during them but when they end it’s like my life has been ripped apart and then my thoughts turn to endless rumination, rehearsal and suffering. I have poor psychology regarding that and I’ve been reinforcing it for years. Only recently have I admitted to this and have been going to therapy to help deal with it.

Generally, I’ve been looking for a way for years to minimise the suffering of these thoughts, without fully understanding the root cause. This video should go a long way to helping me gain control over my thoughts. But I know it will take sustained practice and effort over time. I’m going to try to keep flattening the illusion and I really hope it starts to break away the suffering, bit by bit. Also started a meditation routine for the last week and hope to keep it going, 20 mins a day, every day.

Carol powers says:

Can you do something on aging… How to feel like you can still have a good life after youth is gone. I can’t stop fearing old age.

Uldis says:

I think that Leo he are telling us about techniques he himself are practicing, so ask him some 40 years later

neil byrne says:

wow you speak russian thats awesome

Mayur says:

I think leo was born in Russia , and anyway he is awesome !

Leo is this right were you born in Russia ?

Adrian says:

Great video about moving out of an augmented reality. Thanks again for sharing. Your videos continue to become more practical. Look forward to them every week.

george says:

i believe thoughts are a response of memory and accumulated experiences. so thoughts are kind of stored matter in the brain physically. so when a thought comes up it is obviously of the past, and it is old and can never be alive new fresh and creative. but i don’t agree with what you say about practice and skill development at this area, i believe realization and understanding is prior to that.

Leo Gura says:

Then how do you have new thoughts about the future?

george says:

new thoughts about the future will be illusory and your Fascinating video will back me up on that. every thought is a new thought in a way, and they all come up in a spontaneous matter according to your conditioning which is basically memory.

Leo Gura says:

There is much more to thought than just memory.

george says:

So what is a thought?

Leo Gura says:

It’s your job to discover that via your awareness.

Do not mistake this for an intellectual consideration. You cannot define in words what something is. Is-ness is only accessible through 1st person consciousness. No one can tell you what something is.

Ragnar says:

Shuffling Thank with Fuck we get –
Fuck you leo , Fuck you so much

Take us deep , we do love all this profound things .

I am so glad that I have access to your videos, they really have potential to change life radically .
Keep it up and fuck you once again

Mr Gleeson says:

Hehe I am in London. So i strolled on in to the toilets and bumped in to sirDr.Martin Seligman …my bad! Seminar now, god Damn! lol

Sean K says:


I’ve watched many of your videos, and I found them to be fairly ok. But this particular one is by far the best, at least for me. The timing was also right on because I’ve spent the last year practicing daily mindfulness, and am now wondering what I can do with it. And I’ve been looking for a way to lighten things up in my life. I get so bogged down in the realness of life and I really feel these exercises – and your explanations – will really help me to start building some momentum in my growth.

Thank you for that,

Mr Gleeson says:

Also as well as being at his seminar Leo, I watched half you’re video awesome! I love your stuff..I always custom Taylor and kinda listen to myself and what I want, you’re videos are a great advantage to help me with that, my own non profit buddy business organisation now starting up now, so I wanna thank you. I have had discussions regarding you with properly over 32 people or so now from different places here in England and I recomend ya! I give them a lil note saying ( bit tell them not importantly to trust themselves but take the goog good good advice too peace! I am 19 years old

tom says:

This is incredible

Ben says:

When I was meditating yesterday, I heard a dog bark somewhere in the background. I had this thought that I heard a dog. What it literally was, was an image of a dog and a voice in my head saying: “It’s probably a dog”. I wrote this down after the meditation session.

Now, shortly after becoming aware of the nature of this thought, it struck me that in this case the content of the thought caused it to pop up in my mind. I mean that when I perceived the barking, this got translated in my head as the aforementioned thought.
I was wondering as to what your views are on this, namely that meaning gets put into thoughts, and maybe not vice-versa. Thanks in advance, Leo.


Brett Miller says:


Sounds like you are progressing in your contemplative practice. Keep working on your concentration and soon you should be able to have a direct consciousness of even more detail of the way the mind picks out a conditioned/cognized label for an object, post sense contact. If you are fortunate, there will be an awareness of discrete steps of conditionality.

The brain has to pick out some symbol to pair up with the sensory event. With adequate concentration, this can be witnessed. But not likely if “You” are trying to do anything during the meditation.


Leo Gura says:

It’s sorta both. Thoughts are imbued with meaning and then they imbue perceptions with meaning. The mind is like a messy network of meanings, all of which are illusory.

Ben says:

Tkanks Brett and Leo! I will definitely continue practising my awareness of thoughts.

Darren says:

Giving 3 examples is a nice template for how I can approach the exercise. I’m really looking forward to flattening 50 thoughts. I’m from the UK like my friend Mr Gleeson so lets swap the ‘th’ for an ‘f’ and call this the Triple F exercise. Nice one Bruv.

Linzie says:

It sounds so simple… to perceive something for what it really is, rather than the elaborate web of emotional thought and idea’s we attach to a situation. I am a working progress… But totally see the freedom of anxiety this could bring my life.

Thanks Leo

Rob says:

I was just interviewing somebody and in the beginning of the interview I felt insecure about looking the person in the eyes.

I want to write down the thought that preceded this insecurity, but I am having difficulty finding it. I find that the content of the insecure feeling exists in thoughts, but the thought that preceded the insecure feeling, I can’t find.

Litteraly I felt butterflies in my stomach, an uneasy feeling and warmth in my face and I thougt, “why do I feel insecure?”.

Do you have any tips for finding the thought preceding the emotion? Thanks!

Leo Gura says:

It can take lots of looking because those thoughts are largely automatic and subconscious.

Make sure you look in real-time. Not hours after the fact. This work needs to be done in real-time as much as possible.

Aprajita Gupta says:

Thank you leo
This video is wonderful. Thanks for bringing a positive change in my life.

Jos says:

Hello Leo. When you break down shyness in the story and the pictures. Is it not so that you can break down those pictures the words of the story also?

James Burns says:

Hey Leo, I’m very interested in languages, but I find that it is very difficult for me to master new alphabets. I’m trying to learn the Greek alphabet, but it seems to me that my mind is so inveterably disposed to the Latin alphabet that it it is very difficult to interpret the Greek alphabet without judging it and comparing it to the Latin alphabet. Do you think this problem would be solved if I practice viewing all letters as arbitrary symbols? I just thought that you, knowing both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets, would be able to help.

Leo Gura says:

You just need much more practice. See my video about Mastery.

Cathy says:

I find you so intriguing but at the same time so simple. Thanks leo

A thought … How truly insignificant and meaningless … Just (just) a moment of egoic perception … of WHAT ? Certainly not Conscious Awareness (or is it) … It’s nothing … It’s everything …

WHERE does the thought actually come from ? WHAT is it’s SOURCE ? And the BIG question LEO, WHERE does it GO when the moment is gone ???

WHERE does it go ??? Peaceful is the _____ who KNOWS a thought is nothing …

Yep … That’s a thought too … Going mad …

Lei says:

Hey, this is Lei. I noticed that every Youtube videos from u viewed more than hundreds thousand times, which is pretty good. Actually, if u make a subtitle for each video and upload on a Chinese website, I believe this number would be increased by two or more zero behind.
Leo, think about it, I can help you to promote, there is a huge market there. As I feel my English has been improved quite a lot by watching your free videos, people from my home country can also feel the same way that being enlightened and more confidence to go outside and hug the rest part of the world.

Hengame says:

Very powerful video, surely I follow you. Thank you Leo.

Lance says:

Great stuff

Nayr says:

Am I correct in thinking that this and a lot of other self development excercises are about getting rid of emotions?

The thing is, I’m already pretty flat when it comes to emotions so that I’m actually trying to improve how I express myself emotionally… and this makes me think if that is actually counter productive.

Leo Gura says:

Incorrect. These exercises are about grasping what is true, not about suppressing emotions. When you grasp what’s true, you will become more emotionally attuned, although not “emotional” in the sense of: at the effect of negative emotions.

Martha says:

This video is so intense I am having to watch it for the second time.

Sandra says:

Hi, I have found this video very helpful as I am an overly sensitive person.
My thought play tricks on me and I allow to much emotion towards the thought. This process of flatting has been very difficult to learn I must say. I also meditate to try to control the thoughts, or illusions of the thoughts. I very much enjoy the information that you provide and you are right no one does teach this to you in your younger year. Thanks Leo !!

Shahar says:

Amazing and mind blowing as always… Just one thing is mising for me in the video: I realize that thoughts are not the real thing and the problem with some of them, but most of them are still very usefull for everyday life! Isn’t them? They help me with my work, my relationships and I can’t realy function without them. For example: I have a meeting tomorrow at 09 0 AM, therfore I take the relevant actions in the real world to get on time. what about these kind of thoughts?

Leo Gura says:

Of course every single one of your dysfunctions and neuroses is highly use to you. That’s why you created them in the first place.

The trick is to stop caring about usefulness. Start caring about truth instead. Truth even when it robs you of usefulness and effectiveness.

This is an advanced topic. Which means you cannot grasp it until you stop caring about your petty self and its agenda. All of that is an obstacle to truth.

Luis says:

Thank you Leo, for all and each video that you have done, they are very useful and full of insights, and very inspiring.
Here is a quote from Arya Nagarjuna

The phenomena that appears to the mental consciousness, the chief of them all,
are conceptualised and then superimposed.
When this activity in abandoned, phenomena’s lack of self-essence is known.
Knowing this, meditate on Dharmadhatu.

Marius says:

Thank you!

Deepa says:

Thank u

Shannon says:

Thank you so much, Leo! You have really helped me put things in perspective and I have only just begun watching your videos.

Ela Rathee says:

Hi Leo

I am not able to quite understand what does flattening the illusion means?

When you asked to think about Mom, first thing that came to my head was her image in my head. So does flattening means I fix in my head that actually when someone says a word My Mom immediately I have an image of her in my head and it’s not real since its just an image of her that I imagine.

Similarly, when you asked to think about God, the first thought came in my head I have no image of God but Ramana Mahrishi is the closest person whom I can consider God. Then I had his image in my head and then as the part of Flattening the image I thought “With the word GOD I have an image in my head which is of Ramana but its just something I have imagined.

Is this flattening? Reminding yourself that with words you have an image that comes to the head. And these images aren’t real but something created in your head.


Max the Know better says:

I think without a million dollars it’s just trash with no truth and no reality for poor people when the reality is I only have a hundred dollars, I don’t have $40,000.

Poor people know no truth, my real beliefs is money, if I flatten the illusion I have little money, I’m buying cheap things (a dollar in my day used to be a lot of money), saving up, continuously buying the same food to have a long-lasting supply of it, trying British tartare sauce and having ice cream with sprinkles.

Max the know better says:

Given I made up for myself a healthy diet, my diet has changed to AI-driven eating and eating habits, as said about above ice cream, and also I eat frozen fruit instead, I will choose a tartare sauce, regardless of its being British, that’s real tartare sauce, but it’s the Praise tartare sauce overall I trust. Even though my life’s simple I can be specific about the content but there’s uncountable amounts of different things I do in my life. Do you think you know what my culture is? No one thinks that, they don’t know what it is, what it contains, how it’s done or how it’s not done, or any of the foods I eat, flattening the illusion it’s just an obscure bunch of stuff I do, people suffer from the illsuion of its meaning, that I must be an evildoer, but everything I do is as good and innocent as tartare sauce, it’s done as if it was morally based, based on what I can do and so there’s a, I dare say, vicious cycle, as reverting back to the same problems, something that starts off innocent then if I keep pushing it people get fed up with it, do you realise it does nothing if you didn’t exist? What I do after all, means nothing to an animal, it doesn’t see me as “the wrong thing”, or “evil”, that’s a meaning people have and for the first time I was always the kind of guy who hated some people, things and circumstances, I was always made uneasy, upset, and that happiness I once had, people upset me all ruining it. I’m not a thing as you think, I’m just a person like you, living my day-to-day life and maintaining consistency, regularity, I suffer the same problems, but also other people’s problems which isn’t so average, and treats me like an evil, distinct person, that’s not my problem, it only dissolves like acid if they’re out of my life, me bonding with my real friends, people who don’t make seal noises being upset constantly every time I do some of the things I do, they can’t bloody well put up with it! I just keep on, I continue, and the whole thing can go on for years and years and still I’m doing it, I’m not the one with mental illness, you have a problem with me and you don’t like me, some irrational thing is some chemical reaction in your brain making you scared, fucked in the head, you get trauma over things that weren’t intended to cause suffering, wow, now we see that acting merely from good intentions isn’t enough, you’re like this when I’m not normal, you have chemicals in your brain that don’t function properly, if it’s too distinctive, individual, strange or weird, you get fucked up, that’s why you’re sick in the fucking head!

Max the shithead says:

Leo’s telling the truth? If he was Theramintrees he wouldn’t call it the truth but stories, nothing fools an atheist, they know all the holy bullshit, all the religious tricks, how do I know Leo’s telling the truth, and not just making a false photo to make it appear true? I can’t believe religious stories other than the story of the poet sleeping at night, despising all men and living aesthetically, that means the aesthetic life’s true, the story isn’t a story. How do I know that picture of a spider isn’t photoshopped? Fuck off! The teachings are plagiarisms of folk tales changed from the truth, it’s not anything new Leo’s teaching, somebody’s telling stories. The story of a cuckoo in a sparrow’s nest, fuck off, it’s a false photo, photoshopped, it’s therefore not the truth and Leo doesn’t tell “the truth”, I can’t believe that shit, it’s practical, that doesn’t mean it’s true, fuck off! I’d rather take magazine cutouts of biscuits with me than believe these lies, most of the religions are lying, plus Leo clings to God, and logic, Leo’s the devil, he doesn’t practise what he preaches, fuck all this, I’d rather be ignorant and unlearned and take wisdom from Kierkegaard than from a criminal, I don’t follow religion from fucking criminals, my life will be better if I was told the truth, without the lies, without old wives’ tales, without traditions, it’s dead beliefs and you think you’re alive.

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