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All thoughts are not created equal



I’m staring out into the forest. It’s a beautiful experience. I don’t know how to better summarize it than that. It’s simply perfect. Then a thought appears to perhaps suggest that what I’m doing is actually not perfect.

What is it that tells me that staring out into the forest, listening to birds, and squirrels, and leaves, and whatnot is not ok in and of itself? What tells me that I shouldn’t do just that, for hours? There’s the thought, “There’s nothing being produced.” It’s a familiar mental track, and it no longer holds the traction it once did, so it doesn’t stick. That thought wanders off, leaving me staring out into the forest curiously.

Then I have the thought, as if to console myself of the last one “it’s better to stare out into the forest than chase my tail in some dissonant pursuit.” (ie- read, romantic/sexual adventures or some other “distraction”). I’m stunned, perplexed, entertained, and giggle ridden to hear that assertion! Harsh! As soon as I hear the thought echo through my mind, I recognize that this is yet another assertion, and in a split second I am back to enjoying the forest. However while I’m doing that with some of my attention, other bits of my attention are still considering that thought that so confidently announced itself, asserting itself as true. The anchor of this thought is stronger than that of the former thought. There is still some dissonance alive, about the dissonance involved in my pursuits. Oh the irony is a bit comical, but nevertheless, there it is.

What is it that tells me that my romantic/sexual happenings are not ok? That staring into the woods is a more noble use of my time? Well, it’s some other thought/idea: “it is a waste of my time.” To spell it out, this thought is attempting to assert that playing out in/with the world is more of a waste of time than staring out into the forest. It’s true that engaging in the world- beyond the location of my rocking chair- does require different energy expenditure. Does that mean it’s a waste of something? Who or what is to say that it’s a waste of anything? Or that something better is to be done? Or that something else should be done? Who/what is to know what moment is ok and what moment is not?

You can see where this is going… it will of course lead to more thoughts, and more thoughts, and more thoughts. Most likely they will be thoughts attempting to answer questions that can’t really be answered, and solve problems that aren’t actually problems at all. The left brain is like that. It’s the dance that it does.

I get curious about the judgments and assertions that my thoughts purport. That curiosity really seems useful because without it they seem to go right into the land of believability. In that land lives certainty. That’s where all hell breaks loose- thoughts fighting against thoughts in wars that aren’t winnable, and don’t exist in the first place.

I appreciate how thoughts seemingly try to watch out for me: trying to negotiate the best use of my time, for example. It’s a bit cute- endearing almost. It’s just plain entertaining when I don’t take them seriously. What I also find particularly useful is the ability to recognize thoughts that are assertions as opposed to distinctions. Assertions are drawn from the past, or projected upon a future. Distinctions are born from the present moment, in the present experience. In this way, they are simple, clear, and drama free. They don’t roll around in the hamster wheel in the mind. They announce themselves and are done. They are helpful, as opposed to making things more confusing.

My invitation to you: Notice your thoughts. Notice that thoughts are always coming and going. Some seem to leave just as quickly as they came. Others seem to linger. And others seem to stay. Those that linger often are anchored in stories or belief system, or memories. And they often have sensations with them as well[1]. Some of them seem to command that you do something. Some seem to be conveying something about who you are as a human being. The left-brain interpretive center is part of a normally functioning human being, so thoughts often inherently have an interpretive edge. Notice that. Notice all that. AND don’t believe everything you think. Your thoughts are not necessarily revealing reality. You may have thoughts of a pink elephant, but nowhere on earth does a species of elephant give birth to pink baby elephants. Be entertained by your thoughts, not ruled by them. Be curious of them, not dependent upon them.

Having thoughts is part of the experience of being a human being. If you’re having thoughts, you’re functioning as intended. YAY! There’s no need to pretend you’re not having them, and there’s no need to hide from them. When they are seen directly as they are, as words comprised of letters/sounds, they lose their umph, and you are free to enjoy yourself, as opposed to be controlled by the words/letters/sounds. In other words, you’re free to experience the experience NOW, as opposed to an imagined future or re-created past prompted by mental data.

Staying with the original topic at the beginning of this blog: as I explore the most useful way to spend my time, I can refer to the hamster wheel of thoughts/assertions that are referenced in the past or future. Or, I can reference something else that is always here: my connectedness to the present moment. I can lean into what is here, in this moment, and respond with distinctions. In short, I can observe, make distinctions, and allow the flow to take me where it does. In this way, I won’t necessarily know ahead of time what will be the most useful way to spend my time, but I can always know in the moment. Which, right now, tells me that it’s time to be done writing, and time to listen to the crickets in the forest.

[1] There are thoughts that have a lot of Velcro, or meaning attached to them. If you notice thoughts that repeatedly come up, with images or sensations attached to them, it can be useful to explore them to see what meaning making has been placed upon them.

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