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Don't Believe Everything You Think summary

Joseph Nguyen

Why Your Thinking is the Beginning & End of Suffering

4.5 (174 ratings)
17 mins
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    Don't Believe Everything You Think
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    We create our reality by thinking

    Let’s start with a timeless question: What is heaven and what is hell? Some religious traditions interpret these concepts literally. For example, many Christians and Muslims view heaven and hell as real places of either absolute goodness or eternal suffering. Most Buddhists, by contrast, conceptualize them figuratively and psychologically; for them, heaven and hell are states of mind, not locations or destinations. An old parable from the tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism illustrates this idea. It goes like this: 

    One day, a burly, battle-scarred samurai warrior went to visit a Zen master. He found the man meditating in his garden. The samurai, who was more used to issuing commands than discoursing on philosophical subjects, brusquely interrupted the master and demanded an answer to his question. “What is heaven and what is hell?” he boomed. 

    The master opened his eyes and looked up at the samurai. “Why should I tell a rude slob like you – a man who demands, rather than asks?” the master said. The samurai was taken aback. Men of his class were accustomed to being treated with deference and they were known to brutally punish anyone who disrespected them. 

    Outraged, the samurai raised his sword over the master’s head. But the master neither flinched nor begged for mercy. He simply and softly said, “That is hell.” The samurai froze; he instantly grasped the master’s meaning. Anger, resentment, and entitlement had consumed him. For nothing but an inconsequential wound to his ego, he had been ready to kill this man. He sheathed his sword, placed his palms together, and bowed in gratitude for the master’s insight. A smile flickered across the latter’s face. “And that,” he said, “is heaven.” 

    What can this parable teach us? The Scottish philosopher Sydney Banks can help us here. 

    Banks argued that we experience reality through our thoughts. The objective world “out there” doesn’t cause us to perceive things in a certain light – it’s our internal thought processes that shape our perceptions of the world. In other words, we create our reality, good or bad, through thought. As the seventeenth-century English poet John Milton put it, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven.” 

    That’s exactly what the master teaches the samurai. The hell the warrior experiences isn’t caused by anything in the world – it’s self-created, a product of his ego. Heaven, too, is an internal state of mind; he experiences it when he lets go of his ego. 

    Put differently, we live through our perception of reality, not in reality itself. On this basis, reality is nothing but a series of events occurring independently of thought. There is nothing either good or bad, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet tells us, “but thinking makes it so.” Whether we feel positively or negatively about something tells us little about the nature of that thing, but it tells us a great deal about our interpretative methods.  

    Of course, it’s natural to interpret certain things in certain ways. For instance, it would be odd to claim that sadness was an inappropriate interpretation of reality if a loved one died. But we don’t only suffer for understandable reasons. If that were the case, we wouldn’t need sages like the Buddha or analysts of human psychology like Freud. We do need them, though, because we are so often the authors of our own – needless – suffering. 

    But this type of suffering can be cured. After all, if thinking creates our reality, it stands to reason that we can change our experience of reality by changing our thinking. And if that’s true, we’re only one thought away from making our own heaven out of hell.

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    What is Don't Believe Everything You Think about?

    Don’t Believe Everything You Think (2022) is a guide to overcoming anxiety, self-doubt, and self-sabotage. Rejecting feel-good clichés about motivation and willpower, it draws on timeless Buddhist wisdom to demonstrate how thinking entangles us in a life of suffering – and how we can free ourselves from that trap. 

    Don't Believe Everything You Think Review

    Don't Believe Everything You Think (2023) is a thought-provoking book that challenges our beliefs and encourages critical thinking. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Packed with mind-opening insights, it helps readers question their own thoughts and beliefs, leading to personal growth and self-awareness.
    • By presenting real-world examples and psychological research, the book provides a deeper understanding of cognitive biases and how they shape our perception of reality.
    • With its engaging and relatable approach, the book ensures readers won't find a single dull moment, making the exploration of our own minds both intriguing and enjoyable.

    Who should read Don't Believe Everything You Think?

    • Overthinkers and self-sabotagers
    • Anyone interested in Buddhist perspectives on pain and suffering
    • Spiritual seekers and explorers  

    About the Author

    Joseph Nguyen is an author, teacher, and public speaker best known for his spiritual approach to self-healing and self-help. His previous books include Beyond Thoughts, a poetry collection exploring the roots of emotional suffering, and The Art of Creating, a study of creativity. His best-selling book Don’t Believe Everything You Think has been translated into over thirty languages. 

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    Don't Believe Everything You Think FAQs 

    What is the main message of Don't Believe Everything You Think?

    The main message of Don't Believe Everything You Think is to challenge our thoughts and beliefs to uncover the truth and live a more fulfilling life.

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    The reading time for Don't Believe Everything You Think varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Don't Believe Everything You Think a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Don't Believe Everything You Think is a thought-provoking read that challenges our assumptions and encourages personal growth. It's definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Don't Believe Everything You Think?

    The author of Don't Believe Everything You Think is Joseph Nguyen.