I’ve been thinking about thinking. (And now, as I write this, I guess I’m thinking about thinking about thinking—as well as thinking about dreaming!)
A central aspect of my own spiritual practice is my effort to become aware of what brings me more into alignment with the intricate patterns of all life, and what tends to knock me out of alignment. Even though I’m in awe of the amazing powers of the thinking mind—it’s clearer and clearer the older I get that most of my thinking knocks me out of sync. My everyday habits of thought regularly waste energy, contribute to suffering (for me, and sometimes others), and can definitely prevent me from being fully present and in tune with the world around me.
Some basic planning, organizing, remembering, rehearsing, reflecting, creative cognitive processing, etc. is useful, of course. But really, an awful lot of the stuff that’s going through my head is repetitive, self-perpetuating worries or complaints. I tell myself stories that define me, so that I can keep thinking I know who I am. Maybe your thoughts are more elevated than this? More meaningful? Just listen to yourself for a while and see what you think…
The bottom line is that most (if not all) thinking—even the loftiest, most enjoyable, or most necessary thinking—takes us out of the present moment. The vast majority of thought refers to something either in the past or in the future, something not here and not now.
How does the world look, sound, feel, smell, taste—right now? What is this experience? Yes, some thought responses arise almost instantly even in the moment of experiencing… Yet, if I’m not swept away by my thoughts, not entirely persuaded by the story I’m telling myself about something that happened or didn’t happen or may happen or should happen—well, then I can be just where I am.
Personally, I know that too much thinking makes me pretty unhappy. Each thought has a very convincing argument for its own importance, but collectively they wear me down and make my world seem suffocatingly small. Continue reading