Thinking for practical situations is a help. Thinking which is repetitive and unnecessary is a hindrance.
Psychologists estimate that we have sixty thousand thoughts each day. Not only this, but 95% are repetitive and useless. Not knowing the content of our own mind, we are literally at its mercy and unconsciously follow its instruction to the letter. The habit of excessive thought and more importantly lack of awareness is the result of the inherited human mind. The individual detail is created through our experiences from the past, influences from societal, educational and social environments and is kept alive through repetition.
Thinking is seen as good. Not thinking is seen in the western world as lazy or dull. We often hear about the “brilliant thinkers” who make profound discoveries or realisations. Truth be told, eureka moments are made not during thinking but during a cessation of thought. Our education system teaches us how to think. Through school and university, the mind is developed and moulded into a superb analytical tool. Thinking is seen as the solution to any of life situations. If we have a problem, we feel that the more we think about it- the greater the chances of it being solved. As a child, we did not think. Thinking is a learned habit developed over time.
If you feel that it is good to think a lot, take a look at the stress of people who are in the constant grip and torture of their minds. Often I pass by a man on shop street in Galway. He is so tormented that he openly voices the content of his mind in the street. His mind has completely taken him over. He is pressed down with thought. He is depressed.
For many of us, we are similar to the man on the street except that we don’t talk out loud. Instead we have internal mental chatter. We think about the same thing day in and day out with little resolve or reduction in thinking. Watch your thoughts and you will be left in no doubt that the Western human mind is truly mad.
Thinking for practical purposes is fine as it serves a purpose. However most of our thinking is not for practical purposes. Most thinking is spent on insane repetitive worry and anxiety. If you were able to eliminate your thought activity by 50% you would be very happy indeed. If you were able to eliminate 95% of all 60,000 thoughts, you would live a life of bliss. Thinking makes you unhappy. Less thought activity makes you happy. Thinking is a disease.
Lots of thoughts = unhappiness
Few thoughts = happiness
If you don’t believe this, ask yourself what is causing the unhappiness in the first place? Forget about positive thoughts, they work when things are going well. They don’t work when you are down in the dumps.
Control your mind or allow your mind to control you
Human thinking began tens of thousands of years ago. It is the single most important function that differentiates our ability from animals.
Thinking is very useful for practical situations. We need to remember how to drive a car, decide what choice to take, determine a strategy, plan an event, deal with a specific situation. You might want to go to the shop- you think about what foods are not in the cupboard. You organise flights- you think about best dates, price and destination. You write a letter- you think about what you need to say. You go to petrol pumps to fill your car- you decide on what pump, how much money to spend. You contact a supplier- you think about what you need, what quantities, what price and when it will be delivered. Somebody might have overcharged you- you decide on what you are going to say and you say it to them. Thinking when used in this instance for practical purposes is fine. It is necessary and is productive.
However, 95% of our thinking is not used to deal with a practical situation. Most thinking is unnecessary and repetitive. You will realise as you observe the activity of the mind.
You are walking in a beautiful quiet park and instead of experiencing the sun of the back of your head, the beautiful sight of flowers around you, the wonderful sounds of children at play- your attention is wrapped up giving out about your neighbour who gave you a lecture yesterday, or your boss who was unhappy with your work, or the other driver who blew the horn at you, or that the mortgage needs to be paid at the end of the month. This thinking is torture. It does nothing to help the situation. It does nothing to help you. Continuous thinking in this fashion would drive you into depression.
Not only are you driving yourself insane, but you are missing out on the wonders that life has to offer you.
Quietening the mind
Everybody regardless of the extent to which thoughts have taken them over have the capacity to still and take back control of their mind. A still mind is just covered up with mental noise and anything that helps to de-clutter the mind will allow the stillness to resurface.
Learning how to do this is very simple, although attention is required. Your choice is to keep running the nonsense through your head and feel miserable or become aware of this and allow the programs to dissolve and thoughts to subside. Do you want to live a life free from worry and unhappiness?
The next few blog entries list simple self help breathing and awareness practices which deal with the psychological and physiological aspects of depression, anxiety and stress.