An important lesson is that you don't have to identify with everything that comes up. It can be a movement of the mind and you decide not to go with it. You watch it - when you don't go with it - it just dies out.
It's like ghosts coming up, telling you 'Go with me, go with me.' As long as you go with them, you give them reality. But if you don't go with them, they wither away. This is where the teaching on not-self comes in.
Actually not-self comes in from the very beginning. You have choices. A particular idea comes to your head to do something you know is wrong. And you can decide not to go with it. That's the beginning of the not-self teaching.
In other words you have a choice to create a sense of self around your ideas. And when you decide not to create that sense of self, you've identified that thought as not-self. Particular habits, particular ways of acting, instead of running along with them, you just stay still and watch them move on their own. And they'll go a little ways, and then they'll die."
Thanissaro Bikkhu's other fine talks & writings:
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