Most of us have been taught that the mind is supreme; that my identity, my ‘I am-ness’, my very sense of existence, is caught up with that fact that I can think (remember ‘Je pense donc je suis’? Written by some famous French guy!). We live in a culture that prizes reason above all else – isn’t that why we strive to better ourselves at university? We never question this. It is embedded in our consciousness – the power of reason and thinking is assumed. But is it really that important? Could there be an existence beyond thinking? Can I stop thinking? I want to appeal to our rational self for a moment, in the hope that we might see (wake up to) the possibility that we could do without thinking for part of the day! I suggest that breaking free from dependency upon thinking, brings us freedom. Freedom to be in the NOW – for this is all we have. Selah
We only have the present moment to live in. Quite a profound thought. What keeps us from it? Some would say we have forgotten how to live in the NOW; that we used to live in the moment as children … and then we grew up! Could one of the big hindrances be the mind?
For me, getting ‘stuck in a moment’ (see U2 link) is getting stuck in a thought. If I allow my mind to dwell on the past or the future, I’ve immediately stopped living in the moment, in the ‘now’. A growing number of people have understood how to deal with the mind. I urge Christian readers to go ‘off piste’ a little and review Eckhart Tolle’s books The Power of Now or The New Earth. I don’t buy into all of Tolle’s work, but it sure stops us in our tracks of dualist thinking, and helps us re-examine the paradigms we may have unwittingly adopted via our modernist education. Removing these encrusted glasses certainly helped me see my faith a lot clearer and in particular the teachings of Jesus.
Practising ‘watching the thinker’ helps us become more aware of when we get stuck in a thought. To quote Eckhart Tolle, ‘Observe how the mind labels [the present moment] and how this labelling process, this continuous sitting in judgement, creates pain and unhappiness. By watching the mechanics of the mind, you step out of its resistance patterns, and you can then allow the present moment to be. This will give you a taste of the state of inner freedom from external conditions, the state of true inner peace.’
Stopping thinking, I believe, is vital in the contemplative process. We have all experienced by now the intense mind-chatter/noise when we come to the quiet. To find God, to listen to God may involve learning how to stop thinking, and listen with another part of our being.
Quote: Thomas Merton “You do not need to know precisely what is happening or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognise the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment and embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”