I’ve been getting e-mails and social network posts from people all over the world who are asking questions like these: Aren’t there some thoughts that are better than others? Shouldn’t I be striving to sort out my “good” thoughts and focus on them? How can I tell when I’m having “good” thoughts? Shouldn’t I be trying to think positively? Here’s what I think about what I’m doing with my thinking now; is that better than what I used to do? What do you think about it?
A lot of people are spending a lot of time thinking about their thinking in the name of trying to better understand how to find peace. Yikes! Did some malicious prankster release a whirling thought dervish into our midst?
Thinking, thinking, thinking, round and round and round, regardless of what we’re thinking about, will never lead to insight, wisdom, or peace of mind. Seriously, you can think the sweetest, kindest, most lovely thoughts imaginable, and think and think and think about them, and it will do nothing whatsoever to guide you to quietude, or to insights and understanding. Sure, filling your head with beautiful thoughts beats drumming up hateful stuff a thousand different ways, but in the neutral world of how our psychological functioning works, your mind doesn’t care. It will stay busy processing whatever stuff you put in there. Think of a blender. It really doesn’t care whether you’ve just put in the ingredients of a soothing smoothie or a bitter brew; turn it on and it will churn. If it’s full and turning, there’s no room for anything new. It’s working with what it has.
Already thought thought is the past, what we have. Re-thinking it, or thinking about it, or trying to analyze it, keeps us out of the freshness of the present moment. It is truly like looking through the rear view mirror while driving straight ahead. Doesn’t matter if we’re looking at gorgeous scenery or a scary scene in that rear view mirror; we have no idea where we really are; we’re living in where we were.
The thoughts we form in our heads are fleeting images. They form and glow and fade away like rainbows after a rainstorm. A hallmark of a person who has found some level of peace of mind is that they talk less, and spend more time just immersed in the experience of living, rather than thinking about and discussing every little thing. They have no need to explain themselves or to defend their ideas; they know the humility of realizing that every person on earth has his/her own thoughts that look just as “real” to him/her. That’s the beauty of the human experience. We can share our thoughts, but we really can’t expect anyone else to be that impressed by them because they have thoughts of their own. Others’ thoughts are more interesting when we’re less invested in analyzing them or our reactions to them, and just seeing them, like looking at someone else’s flower garden. Maybe I wouldn’t have planted the same things, but it’s their garden, and it suits them and that’s the wonder and variety that enriches us all. Everyone is different; everyone is interesting; everyone is living in the world they are creating with their own thoughts.
What binds us together is not reaching agreement with each other or sharing complex thinking intensely enough to persuade others or combing the world of slogans and signs to find things we like and then putting them out to the world as if to say, “See, I told you so! Look at the similar wise thing some famous person, or some unknown sign-maker, said! It’s just like what I said.” What binds us together is that we share the universal gifts of the formless energy from which we are all busily creating our moment-to-moment experience of life. It doesn’t matter what we create; the miracle is the fact of creation, that we create, and that we all share the gifts that allow us to do that.
It always stood out to me that the late Sydney Banks, in the nearly 30 years I knew him, never, ever, ever gave advice or tried to talk anyone into or out of their thinking. The closest he came was to tell us all, often and gently, “Just be yourself. Follow a positive feeling.”
What is a positive feeling?
It is not a by-product of the illusion of formed thought. Sorry about that. We can positive-think until the cows come home, and it won’t take us any deeper into a positive feeling. A positive feeling is the certainty of quietude, before the formation of thought, in which we realize that we can think anything; we are the thinkers; we don’t have to take any of it seriously and we can always think again.
In the words of Sydney Banks, from The Missing Link, p. 9:
“In the silence of our minds lies creative incubation, bringing the wisdom and the joy we all seek.”