Thoughts that think themselves?
You don’t want them but it makes no difference. You change the subject and they lurk around just waiting to reappear. You deny them, you shout at them, you try to ignore them and still they churn away undaunted.
It takes a lot of energy to deal with streams of unwanted thinking and the truth is, the more effort we put in to trying to do something better with our thinking the less successful we are. We simply end up with heaps more thinking.
One morning last week a heavy goods train of thought arrived. I felt the slow build of energy and the accompanying, dull feelings of frustration – I wanted my clear mind back and the inner calm I went to bed with the previous night. I tried sitting it out; steadfast at my desk and determined I would not be controlled by these lumpy, deadweight wagons, full of worthless data. Still they rolled on.
The sun was unusually warm and inviting that morning, out across the fields where I walk. But I had work to do and I was not going to let my day be controlled by these thoughts that seemed to think themselves. I know that there’s nothing to do with thought except be present, accepting the off-track feelings as valuable guides but I still had work to do!
Eventually, however, without any conscious thought I grabbed my jacket and strode off down the track, walking fast and gulping in the fresh air. The thoughts seemed to thrive on a change of scene and I became aware of a new and critical thread that was now reminding me that I should be present to this beautiful day – ‘damn it’ I thought, ‘the new thoughts are now telling me I shouldn’t be thinking about the other ones rumbling on’ On and on, this way and that. I didn’t feel like the thinker at all.
By the halfway mark I felt better, more relaxed, thoughts slowed and I started to hear and see more. I began to enjoy the beautiful day and really appreciate the countryside that meets me at my front door; I found myself tiptoeing past some sleeping farmyard geese which made me laugh at myself.
I know that the walk was not an antidote and yet there I was feeling relief and clarity returning. And then I realised that the thought that took me outside was from wisdom; breaking the spell I had cast on myself which had had me trying to outwit and outsmart my own thinking – as if that was doing nothing! As if the thoughts were thinking themselves…
Despite the noise I heard something much quieter that led me back.