Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Not-Thought Game

"Think the Not-Thought." - Dogen

As a child, I realized that I am more than my thoughts, because there is another part of me that has control over them.  During car rides with my family, I used to stare out the window and make a game of seeing if I could stop thinking.  I could do it, but only for a few seconds, at most.

As an adult, I realize that this game develops a very important skill which is essential to living a more conscious and constructive life.  We cannot consciously direct ourselves in a well-coordinated way without first clearing out the mind-clutter of unnecessary thoughts.  If we want to improve our "use" of ourselves, we need to practice "thinking the Not-Thought" on a regular basis.  This "not-thinking" is something very active.  Consciously "not-thinking" is not a passive activity; our habit is to passively think thoughts in a mindless/unconscious way.

  • Sit quietly for a few moments.
  • Notice whether you are thinking or not.
  • Ask yourself to stop thinking:  "Now I am practicing not-thinking."
  • You can drink in whatever you perceive through your senses, but choose not to think about it.
  • If you have a spiritual practice which involves the repetition of a mantra, this is something which might spontaneously flow into the empty space created by not-thinking.  The mantra then serves as a reminder to not-think.
  • The breath can also serve as a reminder to continue the practice of not-thinking.

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