Thoughts are not invisible.
They're clearly seen in every choice we make, action we take, piece of clothing we wear and car we drive. They can also be viewed around our waistline.
It's obvious our thoughts and the subconscious programs we harbor around food reveal themselves through our food choices and thus our weight. Believe food is the enemy? That every tiny morsel of fat on your steak is gross and needs to be cut away? Chances are 30 years later you still fit into your prom dress.
Love food? Under stress at work? The chocolate muffin is a great coffee break treat. Money troubles? The Cheesecake Factory is just down the street. Marital problems? Ben & Jerry are happy to come over for an intimate talk about your troubles.
But that's the obvious stuff. What we don't see and thus don't know how to manage is how the heaviness of our accumulated thoughts about ourselves and the world in general also affect us.
By middle age most of us have fallen into some pretty repetitious thought patterns. "I'm not good enough. My life will never change. I'll never get ahead. The system is against me. If only I had gone to college. If only I had gone to graduate school. If only I had taken that promotion. If only I hadn't gotten into that investment scheme. If only ... if only ... if only."
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
We don't realize it but the ego you call "you" and I call "me" is actually just an idea we have in our heads about who we are. It's a programmed sense of identity we pick up and have reinforced every day from life experiences. It's a set of ideas about ourselves and the world that our parents and peers, teachers and priests, books and movies, magazines, TV and songs impress upon us.
Who the "I" is that picks up the thoughts--who the "I" is that "has" an ego--who the "I" is that "has" the idea of worthlessness or grandness in the first place, we never stop to think about or ask. And thus the burden of our thoughts about life and ourselves just gets heavier as we own them and believe that's who we are.
Not only do we accumulate habitual thoughts of fear and imperfection (and grandness), we pick up habitual thoughts about the world. Muslims are jihadist terrorists. Mexicans are stealing our jobs. Atheists are morally bankrupt. Christians are good people. Work harder, longer, faster and you'll get ahead. Keep your nose clean and don't make waves and you'll get ahead. Treat your home as an investment and you'll get ahead.
We have habitual patterns. We get up at the same time every day. We listen to the same music on our smart phones in the car. We drive the same routes to work and to the grocery store. We use the same pieces of equipment at the gym. Use the same bathroom stall at work. Watch the same TV programs. Listen to the same news. Go to the same bars and restaurants. Drink the same drinks and eat the same food.
The burden of our physical habits adds to the weight of identity in our minds.
And we wonder why we wake up at 40 or 50 or 60, look in the mirror and think "What the hell happened? Where did I go? Why am I so heavy? Where is the "me" who felt light and buoyant and excited about life and all its possibilities and potentials? Where did that person go?"
This is why.
Is there a way out? Absolutely!
The first step is to become aware of the situation and realize it's reversible. The next step is to ask, "Who am I?" and don't take anything obvious (your name, sex, age, profession, ethnicity, religious or sexual preference or political party affiliation) as the answer. Dig deep. Start paying attention to the voice in your head and stop thinking that voice is "you."
And for heaven's sakes stop thinking that what the voice says is always real or true.
There's a good reason Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living" all those centuries ago. It isn't. The years add up. The thoughts and misperceptions add up. The voice inside gets unhappier. The heaviness weighs us down until we can barely move.
But there is a track back to lightness and freedom again. It just can't be found at the gym.