Just Because You Can Think, It Doesn’t Mean You Always Should

Our species was optimistically named Homo Sapiens, meaning wise human. Our wisdom is debatable, but thinking is clearly a characteristic of our species. Some of our thinking is wise. Some is otherwise. We think as a way of being in the world. Other species are more inclined to be without all the analysis.

Lacking the defenses and weapons inherited by most other animals, our species has gotten along by using our wits. This strategy has worked marvelously well in increasing our numbers. It has also become something like an addiction. Unless we are taught how, we tend not to stop thinking.

We have the ability to reason, and that comes in handy. Reason enables us to figure things out. Think of Socrates and Plato—superstars in the realm of reason. When you read their thoughts, you may have the thought, “These guys could really think!” Their rational capacity puts most of us to shame. Still, from the vantage point of the 21st century, we can assess their thoughts and be pretty sure that they got some things wrong. Sometimes the foundation upon which a beautiful philosophical premise was built was flawed. The capacity to reason is a beautiful thing, and it is not the only valid use of the mind.

Arguably, our society would be better off if we paid more attention to reason. It is a necessary tool, like a plow is a tool. Farmers use a plow to grow food. Thank goodness that they do. Or perhaps, thank reason that has allowed farmers to improve plows over the millennia. Farmers do at some point stop plowing. After sowing the seed, they no longer plow. Sometime it is good to set aside the thinking faculty too. Let the plant grow. Let the mind settle.

When we pause from the habitual judging/criticizing, planning/worrying, remembering/regretting that makes up much of our thinking, we can shift into a state beyond correct and incorrect. It breaks us free from the fear, anger and shame based emotions. A mind uncluttered with preconceptions is open to clear perception and responsiveness. We may move from thinking to knowing, from reasoning to wisdom.

Don’t worry, you won’t stop thinking. You may take a break from it, but you will never stop the habit for long. It is what we do. Sometimes, leave off the thinking. Just be for awhile. Observe that you have been thinking and let it go. Allow your mind to settle down. Pick somewhere to place your attention, your breath for instance, and remember to bring it back there when it drifts off. Or don’t try to hold your attention anywhere in particular. Just open your senses to whatever comes and practice not holding on to any particular perception/thought. Be without judging or planning. Thoughts will arise, but observe them without holding on to them or trying to link them together.

To the Meditation Archive Menu

To the current Meditation of the Week


© 2009 Tom Barrett