I think thinking is a highly underrated activity and the problem lies in the way we think.
Currently the thing seems to be not to think. Endless lifestyle books on being in the ‘now’, in the ‘zone’ and Buddhist meditation books, all exhort you not to think but to be. To reside in the gap between thoughts. While this is certainly a highly recommended state when meditating-which is also highly recommended it is hardly practical for day-to-day life.
I like to think, I feel good when I think and very good things come from my thinking. This was not always so, there was a time when my thoughts were pure poison to my life.
My quest for greater understanding of the inner workings of my brain started about five years ago when, on waking, I contemplated with despair yet another grinding day stretching ahead of me. I sat up feeling vaguely unwell, my head was groggy, my feet and back ached and frankly I felt old, tired and sad. But then one of those flashes of insight that should never be ignored hit me. I have still got at least half my life to live do I really want to wake up like this every morning?
In moments like this action is the only way, do not hesitate act now.
My first move was to phone a friend and get the name of the alternative healer he had been raving about. One week later I found myself on the healers coach with my brain, wrists and ankles strapped to a computer programme. This I did not believe but was prepared to be as open-minded as possible. The healer, seeing my wide open mind, seized the moment and started probing gently into my inner world .Within minutes I was spouting forth previously untold secrets. Four hours and an entire box of tissues later, I found myself not only with thoroughly sluiced sinuses but also clutching a long list of chemicals that were severely depleted in my body and an equally long list of foods that my body really didn’t like.
The next step was a visit to the health store, then the book shop. “The power of Now” ‘was on my reading list and while I was there ‘Tired of being tired ‘caught my eye. (This book I recommend, ISBN 0-141-00680-3). Essential shopping done, I was on my way to a better life.
The main theme of ‘The power of now’ is living in the current moment, the past is over the future not yet here, now is all we have and on and on. As a creative, living in the moment is not the problem; it is a quiet refuge from the turmoil of the brain. Maybe that is why so many screwed up people create or so many creative people are screwed up. When they create they sink into a quiet, still place that I can only imagine is the gap between thoughts that the Buddhists value so highly. But back to my original statement; being in that space all the time is probably only practical for Buddhists in a temple with nothing else to worry about. For me, the thinking outside of those ‘now ‘moments was what needed to be addressed.
For this the ‘Now’ book recommended having a good close, no holds barred, look at my thoughts, this was not going to be pretty. Besides, I was not well, so I stalled and took to heart the advice of ‘Tired of being tired’. It was pretty hard in the beginning, especially giving up that glass of wine that was my reward for a hard days labour. But by visualizing the happy new me I kept at it. After about two months the daily popping of vitamins and minerals, cutting out alcohol, wheat, dairy products and fried foods started having the desired effect. I noticed I was waking up feeling positively squirrelly, my jeans fit beautifully , my skin glowed and I was receiving compliments for my sparkly clear eyes, oh joy. But the task I had been pushing onto the back burner was still ahead of me. The time had come to have a little look into the dark scheming corners of my mind.
Geared up in my gumboots ,heavy-duty rubber gloves, gas mask and some industrial strength – environment be dammed this was an emergency detergent. I hesitantly approached the attic of my mind.
The hinges creaked and flakes of rust fell to the floor as, with the application of a crowbar, the door opened a crack, letting out a smell of decay that made me nearly abandon the task. But with determination I pushed on. A cockroach scuttled over my foot ‘eee’, oh don’t be such a girl.
With the door finally open I stood staring into the musty gloom that cloaked a life time of thoughts. Swallowing hard I grabbed the first thought that came to mind; festering with decay it slithered its way around my head drawing me into familiar dark places. But no, my first shiny new thought was, why am I hanging onto this? Tossing it out into the light, poof it simply disappeared. Hugely encouraged I waded through thoughts in various stages of mouldering decay, spiders scuttled, cockroaches scurried, earwigs of the large and particularly shiver inducing variety ran up my legs. But I was not deterred, I cleared shelf after shelf in that musty old space until finally I was left with only a few neatly folded thoughts, freshly ironed and stacked in alphabetical order. Folding my arms in satisfaction I looked around at my newly cleaned head space and was in awe. It was a huge and filled with sunshine and optimism. Right then and there I made a vow that this was the way my mind would always look.
I confess that every now and then I still find a horrible old and warty thought hanging on for dear life in some forgotten corner of my brain. But with routine maintenance this problem should eventually be resolved.
Now finally I was ready to embrace the new culture of ‘Being in the Now’, ‘living in the ‘zone’. And do you know, even with my newly polished brain, it is still just not practical or very productive being in the zone all the time, there are times when one needs to think. The problem I discovered was not with thinking but how I was thinking. My head was simply doing what ever it pleased and most of it was not good a bull in the china shop image springs to mind.
I decided my newly cleansed head needed to go off to brain boot-camp, time to teach the grey matter just how to think. No more random thoughts flying in and out, buzzing round my mind like mosquitoes on a sultry night. If my abs were to get a daily work out so was my brain. My brain boot-camp consisted of less media more knowledge. I have always been a great reader so I upped the intelligence level of the books I was reading and now find myself drawing inspiration from books about the cutting edge of physics and science. Books that discuss string theory, scalar fields, the impossibility of an actual vacuum existing and the inevitability of alternate universes. Who would have thought; I am a rocket scientist after all. I have also become a great jotter down of thoughts and when driving I make use of a Dictaphone. These thoughts are then later evaluated, if they have any value they are allowed to stay, if not they get booted back into the great beyond and so I keep my head space bright-white and crystal clear.
The above is merely one experience out of a possible infinity of experiences. The crux of the matter is that thinking matters. How you think matters. Being aware that you think matters. Training your brain to think matters, and only when you have trained your brain to SiT! Stay! Will you be in charge of your life .When your thoughts run clear then you will discover that inner silence, that creative , happy you.