When Was The Last TIme You Were Not Thinking?
A second ago? A minute? Three hours? Three days?
Our culture prides itself on thinking or should I say the productivity that comes from efficient thinking. We are taught from an early age what it is we should be thinking about, offered a basic framework on how to think (“the think tank”), given knowledge to fill that “think tank” and then even given nifty solutions to navigate the difficulties that arise when the “think tank” gets murky.
But, were we ever taught how to actually stop thinking?
It is a bizarre question, but one that I believe deserves, well, a little thinking. Personally, I can rattle off tens of hundreds of people who have been tremendous influences in my life, bestowing knowledge, sharing conceptual frameworks and providing ingenious ways to approach novel problems, but when it comes to the list of non-thinkers, the people who dedicated their time to show me ways to stop all this crazy thinking, the list is short, dangerously and sadly short.
But what’s the purpose of non-thinking? What could come from such an endeavor?
Many people use mindfulness, cultivating states of non-doing and non-thinking in order to be more fully engaged when the heavy thinking is required. Certainly a benefit and one that I have experienced, but is that really the end goal? To engage in period of non-thinking so that we can be more fully present in our “thinking endeavors? With many things in my life, I have sought to let go of the attached, directed pursuit: i.e. I will eat this piece of pizza to feel full, sated and content (eat to satisfy a goal and continue to eat until the end goal is met, no matter the inputs required). Now, I choose to construct intentions and pursue endeavors that will nourish me as a BYPRODUCT of the pursuit. I don’t choose to eat vegetables to feel full, sated and content (although they may lead to this experienced state), I choose to eat them because of the vast array of phytonutrients they supply my body, powering billions of cellular processes that allow for the manifestation of my joyful presence. Okay, perhaps, a little bit of a stretch, but my point is this, I pursue a task with non-attachment and from learned experience knowing that I am more likely to feel joyful, engaged, present and happy after I eat vegetables than after eating a pizza. You see, happiness, engagement and present awareness are BYPRODUCTS of my choice not the direct end goal. And if I feel incredibly yucky, lethargic, and depressed after eating vegetables instead of my expected reaction, I will simply be present with the sensations to the best of my capacity and recognize they too are just byproducts.
What does eating vegetables have to do about thinking and not thinking?
Simply come back to byproducts and end goals and you’ll find your answer.
Are you thinking to satisfy a need and reach an end goal?
Or are you engaged in thinking with the genuine willingness and desire to experience the byproducts of this process?
And what about non-thinking?
Do we need a purpose and end goal for this, too?
Have a joyful week!