"Je pense, donc je suis." [I think therefore I am]
Descartes' famous declaration (let's face it, it has far more gravitas in French), recognises the thinking capacity in human beings. The ability to analyse, reflect and create meaning out of mental activity can be pretty awe-inspiring.
I can barely recall moments where I wasn't lost in thought in the first few decades of life. so immersed I was in thinking about living, that the direct experience passed me by. My analytical skills served me well in devouring texts and coming up with all manner of literary criticism at university. And then I did a short course on 'theories of the mind' and my intellect almost doubled back on itself. I momentarily lost the capacity to grasp concepts. My mind was blown. What? Language is just a limited labelling system? Huh?Before we enter into language we don't see ourselves as separate entities?
In the years that followed I soon dismissed that particular window of exploration, putting it down to an angsty, slightly precocious phase of student-hood and left it behind on a dusty shelf, along with a few alcopops and The Complete Works of Shakespeare.
Until, that is, the existential questions started to come to the fore again and a realisation hit me in the midst of crippling anxiety and low mood that my thinking was not always my friend. All preconceptions I held about the internal commentary bearing some kind of reference to my identity were shaken. I sat in (what had become) a lukewarm bath, rolling an insight round like a pebble between my (now prune-like) fingertips: "The low mood and anxiety are not making you ill, Natalie. Your constant analysis and thinking about them are."
And there it was. A chink of light between the thought loops and me. 'I am not what I think'. Literally.
And so I started to loosen my white knuckle attachment to mental constructs about who I was. I realised, just like that afternoon back in a lecture hall in Birmingham in the late 90s, that our intellect may be powerful but it is limited in its ability to grasp the enormity of who we are. That words can be beautiful when arranged in a certain way, but they are only ever a poor imitation when it comes to trying to capture the wonder of life.
In 'A New Earth', Tolle talks about how the joy of being can only be found when you get out of your head: "Being must be felt. It can't be thought. The ego doesn't know about it because thought is what it consists of." So when we get lost in music, writing, dancing or other creative expressions, we get out of our own way and thinking drops to enable us to fully embrace the moment.
We innocently use thinking to try and get out of uncomfortable states. It's pure folly when you see it, but it's very compelling. Yet when we naturally drop out of thinking and into the heartspace, all questions fade into the background. The need to be right, to be more than we are, to question and analyse all dissolve away. What's left is beyond articulation.
Words are redundant as we rest in what is.
Please get in touch to explore this further through 1-1 coaching if you feel it resonates for you.