My Turn: What do you think?
March 5, 2014
I like to think. I do it all the time. This isn't exactly a news grenade, of course. Nearly all of us do at least our share of thinking, pretty much every waking moment. Recently, I was sitting in a local hangout, thinking up a storm, when I found myself thinking about the thinking I was doing. The thought came that I might like to write something on all this thinking, so then I was thinking about thinking about thinking. Better put your goggles on, gang. This is liable to get messy.
It is written: "As a man thinks, so is he." It's hard to argue with that. If I think a lot of angry thoughts, I'm an angry guy. If I think happy, I tend to be happy. So, what's wrong with thinking? We have ample capacity for it, and some of the stuff we think up consists of good ideas. We can think kind thoughts, loving thoughts, and generous thoughts. We can think about helping our neighbors and serving our community.
One problem is that there exists some disconnect between the thinking of good thoughts and putting them into action. I can even talk at length about my benevolent thoughts, but I only get "As" in preaching. I'm more likely to get maybe a "C+" in practicing.
Another difficulty is that it is hard to stay focused on the positive. Life happens. One child needs braces. Another is demanding tuba lessons, and promises to practice morning, noon, and night in the living room, seven days a week.
The mind says that we must solve these problems and correct these issues, even though sometimes we have little to no ability to do so, or perhaps what we ruminate over is actually none of our business. We sometimes concern ourselves with what other people think, which is something we have absolutely no control over.
When we focus on problems, it's a short putt from thinking to worrying, and this is where thinking is more likely to get out of control. It is so easy for our minds to follow the bread crumbs of worry into a molasses of negativity that poisons our ability to enjoy life.
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Unfortunately, it is not so easy to slog our way out. We think we are stuck until we find solutions to all our problems, and we can't be happy again until this happens or unless that does. At this point, our attitudes can be doomed, because what we think we must have happen may not materialize, at least in the way we envision.
I know for myself, when my mind is spiraling out of control into negativity, trying to turn it around is like trying to turn a stampede of sunburned hippos away from a river. I can't just flip a switch and go from self pity or resentment back to the land of calliopes and cotton candy … or can I? Can I examine my thinking with openness and honesty and conclude it is no longer productive? Do I realize when I am only seeing problems and not coming up with solutions? When my thinking is not working for me, can I just stop?
The answer is yes. For most of my life, I considered the ability to stop or otherwise control one's thinking was a mystical skill reserved for a relative handful of spiritually learned or enlightened folk. Then, I moved to Tahoe.
I want us all to appreciate the fact that we are among the most fortunate people on Earth to be here. We don't have to work at all hard to calm our minds and return to a peaceful state. We need only take a short walk or drive, even just look out a window, and lose ourselves in the majesty of the lake.
What is there to think about when looking at the lake? For our minds to even call it beautiful does it an injustice. Consider the unfathomable depth and stillness below the surface, the reflection of the sky and the mountains, the wind that can whip its complexion into a frenzy. Consider how ancient it is, and the language of words will fail.
Your mind may want to label it, describe it, or write it off as not that important compared to your problems, but take another look. Ask it a question, and listen for the answer. Don't let your mind give it words. Let it speak to you in the language of the spirit. It will take over your thinking for a while. It will connect with you.
Yogi Thompson is an Incline Village resident.
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