Whaddya’ think? Does this feel like you?
Relax! You’re just one among the many millions around the globe equally caught by the thinking mind!
“Ya’ well, I can’t live without thinking!”, you say. “I mean, I didn’t think my life would be like this; I thought by now I’d be relaxing more. But, hey, I guess my planning hasn’t been good enough. Guess I’d better give some more thought to what I need to do to make it better.”
So maybe you do and maybe you don’t – let’s take a look at thinking.
There is thinking and there is thinking: what’s the difference?
Undoubtedly, our world would not have developed as it has without the thinkers, thinking and coming up with creative ideas and problem solving, so it’s not to say that practical thinking, in and of itself, is not useful. But what turns this into mind-chatter misery is when we make thinking a big deal and we believe that what we are thinking is true.
Let me ask you a serious question: “Where do your thoughts come from?” Do you know? If you say you do, then you are likely the first person on the planet with this information! Don’t we, in reference to a thought we’ve just had, often say, “that just popped into my head”? Isn’t that really what happens – a thought pops in? As a little test, just try thinking a thought right this minute and see for yourself what happens!
A thought, however, is not thinking!
Thoughts come and go; thinking only happens when the thought is grabbed on to. A thought that is not grabbed on to simply melts away as another thought pops in. So what happens then is that a thought pops in – from who knows where – and then thinking occurs! This is a critical piece. The other critical piece is determining if the ‘thinking’ is creative and/or problem solving or is it circular/obsessive thinking.
Let’s say that perhaps a creative idea pops in, then thinking unfolds and, from that, something evolves, be it a piece of machinery, a musical script or an amazing building. Useful knowledge comes from our thinking process.
Creative thinking or task oriented thinking, however, is very different from obsessive thinking. With the former, the process is energizing, focused and often includes a result. With the latter, however, which is almost like an addiction, the thinking becomes like a non-stop head chatter, constantly offering opinions, criticisms, judgments, reasoning’s and what-ifs that don’t actually go anywhere! Instead, the mind starts spinning and whips these thoughts into a circular pattern, spinning us ‘round n’ ‘round in an illusion contrary to what is actually being experienced. The spinning mind creates stress! All thinking of this nature occurs because of beliefs, and is therefore always rooted in the past, or future, and therefore is always related to a story. This is another important point: circular thinking is related to a story.
So to be clear: we create the story of our circular thinking. The though pops in, the mind grabs the thought and the story, based on our beliefs, begins to be created. A client has issues around intimate relationships in that she feels something is missing in of her life because she doesn’t have one. She hears about a friend who is now in a meaningful relationship. The mind-chatter of the thinking goes something like this: Well, that’s great that “Mary’s” happy – I mean she got everything she’s been wanting, hasn’t she. She really played the game right. I don’t play any games and I know that he actually was more attracted to me than to her. So maybe I should have. Remember when we were all at that party – did you see the way he looked at me? I know for certain I was his interest but then Mary is so forceful and she just butted right in. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I wonder if it was the way I turned and talked to that other guy? Maybe next time I need to be more aggressive. I don’t know why this always happens to me. I think I’ll go online and see how that is. I’m not going to tell everything about myself though. I know I’m always really open and casual but that hasn’t worked – I don’t know why but it hasn’t – so I’m going to change that. I’d actually really like someone like Mary has and she played it coy so that’s what I’m going to do. But why her and not me. Actually life really sucks – everyone else is in a relationship but me.
Exhausting, isn’t it?
Yet this is really how the mind just spins n’ spins around, adding piece after piece to the story so that, in the end, it may not even resemble what was the initial thought. It is still only a story with the client simply throwing in all sorts of beliefs into its creation. Clearing the mind of much of the chatter gives way to a deep core relaxation. You can begin to notice the thoughts and, instead of grabbing on to them or becoming involved in thinking, you can shift to the place of simply allowing the thought, which will then float away to be replaced by a new thought.
Mind-Chatter Misery versus Experiencing:
There’s an old philosophical saying of “use the mind to destroy the mind” which is addressing the need to question what we believe. The mind creates the story and the mind can also destroy the story by questioning it.
So here is a question for you: When you are in circular thinking, is it related to what you are actually experiencing? When thinking of this nature is occurring it includes a story about what is happening, doesn’t it, rather than what is actually being experienced. We see in the above client story how one bit of thinking leads to more thinking, often unrelated to the first bit, then more thoughts popping in and more thinking until finally the thinking comes back to the initial thought that created the story. Hence, circular thinking. We believe it all to be true when in the midst of it, yet it is nothing more than an involvement in a story that has little to do with an experience. When the thinking about something becomes obsessive, addictive, the same story gets repeated time n’ time again.
Here’s another example: let’s say you are standing at a busy street corner, waiting for the light. Someone ploughs into you, knocking you down. Your actual experience might be a sore knee from when it hit on the pavement or the awareness of fear for your safety. The story, however, might be that you were intentionally shoved and the person obviously resented you because you are well dressed and clearly do not belong in this poor neighborhood. Your mind might then spin into always feeling persecuted or nobody likes you or people are always jealous of you. The reality could be that you were about to walk out in front of a truck that was running the light, and that push actually saved your life! That would change the story dramatically, wouldn’t it!
Many put great value on the intellectual thinker and the academic because they appear to know so much. The more information you have, the smarter you are, right? We make thinking a big deal and the more thinking we do about what a smart thinker we are, the bigger the deal we think we are!! Yet the thinking is, of itself, a profound cause of personal torment, of suffering. It’s worthwhile to remember that information is only as good as it is in this moment. And, because information is constantly changing, it is thus unreliable as a gauge of what the experience actually was. As well, a lot of really smart people who are full of knowledge, strongly believe that what they believe is “correct” or “right” which can result in their being less open to new information.
Wanna’ Make ‘God’ Laugh? Tell’em Your Plans!
Now the “planner” is related to the “thinker” in that all planning is based on thinking, right? Ask yourself sincerely, just because you plan for something does that mean it will happen? Can you control the outcome of your planning? It may unfold as you plan or it may not.
“Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans”
In a very simple example, such as planning what you are going to wear with the intent of creating a certain impression, let’s say for an important meeting, life will often have its own way. I remember one time doing exactly that, dressing in a particular way to present myself as a professional; I was pleased with the look I had created. Then, just as I was getting to the meeting, I tripped and spilled the coffee I was carrying, all down the front of my dress – and yes, it contained cappuccino milk foam! So my beautifully laid out plan didn’t quite plan out!
Like thinking, planning can be useful in that it points out possibilities, yet to say “this is what will be” is simply a desire to control the outcome of life. As John Lennon beautifully said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans!”
John Lennon learned through his extensive self-exploration the truth of his statement. On the same wave length, I say, “life unfolds in spite of you”, a time-honored philosophical statement. I’m reminded here of when, many years ago, I made and sold some T-shirts with the saying, “Wanna’ make God laugh? Tell’em your plans!” They sold like hot cakes because, even when a person does not have a conscious awareness of the illusion of planning life, there is an unconscious knowing of this truth.
Even with these understandings, when the 2:00 am non-stop chatter is up it can be quite miserable when you’re simply wanting to get back to sleep! Get up and go pee or walk around for a couple of minutes because, in just getting up, you will break the energy, thus giving you an opportunity to get back to bed without the thought of “I can’t sleep” place. If the thinking wants to continue, do some deep breathing when you are back in bed – full deep breath in, counting to 10, pause, and a deep slow exhale. Repeat this breathing for at least 10 times. The mind gets distracted by your focus on the breath and will begin to relax. You can either continue with the breathing or you can do the famous ole’ counting-of-sheep or any repetition, like of a mantra, which will have the same effect on the mind as when the focus is on the breath.
In closing, remember a story cannot be in the present moment which means it cannot be related to your actual experience. It becomes obvious then, from this realization, that one of the consequences of being addicted to thinking is that you simply miss out on the opportunity to fully experience an experience. The thinking puts on descriptions and comments, rather than, for example, experiencing a connection with another human being, or fully feeling a particularly poignant heartfelt moment. In conversation, the mind-chatter is busy thinking about how to respond to what the person you’re speaking with is saying, rather than actually really listening to the person.
We can miss so much richness of life when we’re caught up in our own patterns of addicted thinking. The understanding that then comes from the questioning of our mind-chatter misery opens you up to a whole other realm of experiencing life. Rather than being caught in the stress of circular thinking and trying to make life look your way rather than living from the real you, your authentic self, that is bursting to be set free, can emerge.
Beyond Beliefs, the Path to Living Life Fully is about liberating yourself from the pattern of addiction to thinking so that your life opens up to a whole other level of living!
When I work with individuals and groups, we delve deeply in to the exploration of the unfolding of life, which is the opposite end of the pole of the addicted thinker or the controlling planner.
Join me for a weekend that will change your life forever, liberating you from your self-imposed limitations and opening you up to live your life fully, from the real you!