Thinking makes us human. Thinking propelled us up the food chain at lightning speed until we established ourselves as masters of all that we could master.
Thinking is always with us. Thinking well makes us successful. When we have a problem, we turn to thinking. When we need something, when we want something, when we feel something… thinking is the answer.
If we’re good enough, we can even get paid for thinking, for thinking for others. And so it would be stupid to reject thinking, thinking more should always make things better, since it made them good in the first place.
I’m a particular bad case for this. For as long as I can remember, not only have I thought my way out of trouble and into success, but I have always been extremely aware of my thinking. What I mean is, even as a kid, I often played a game of tracking my thoughts as far back as I could and then assessed how I had got to the apparently random thought I happened to be entertaining. Nothing random about it. So then I could trigger certain thoughts and see where they would take me.
As I grew up, I took it further, and I was often on two or three trains of thought at once. I’d be playing a video game, listening to a podcast and thinking about what I’d do later in the day, often intertwining the different mental processes. I’ve taught myself languages by forcing myself to think my most intimate thoughts in those languages only, I’ve imposed thinking about only one thing for hours on end until it would get drilled into my brain. You can see how this can go wrong.
At some point, over a couple of years ago, I sort of broke down. Not dramatically, but I became dysfunctional. I had been learning so much and allowing so little time for leisure that every moment I had I used it for some purpose; I was terrified of idleness, because I felt I had to make up for years of indulging in it. Two years of hard brain overdrive had finally taken a toll.
Then I was shown meditation. Meditation is the opposite of thinking. No success or failure, no goal, no belief… Just this. Just now. It was bliss.
I haven’t even got close to mastering meditation. It doesn’t matter. The effects of practising it are always positive and the exercise is always different, for it involves our mind. Meditation is about letting go, about letting thoughts be, watching them pass, about not engaging, about accepting.
When something bothers me now, when a difficult decision needs to be made, when I’m feeling low, instead of thinking my way out, I meditate. I sit down and pause, and I choose to not think. The possibility of not thinking is also always with us. And then, it is remarkable what happens once you allow yourself to start thinking again.