Thomas Edison said, “There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking.”
On face value, I do not agree with Mr. Edison. People think all the time… way too much. Thoughts, thoughts, and more thoughts run through their heads incessantly. However, the deeper point I am sure he is alluding to, is that few think in a clear, coordinated, coherent manner. Scientists are trained to think rationally but that too is not sufficient for a fully developed life. In the scientist’s laboratory as many variables as possible are fixed. In life, all variables are dynamic and ongoing.
The mind is like a muscle. It must be used properly to develop. If it is not exercised properly, it remains weak. Connections between variables are flimsy. A single point can consume the mind and cast the thinking process in a skewed direction of no return.
I believe Mr. Edison’s point was that few are adept at attentive, mindful thought. That process remains atrophied from lack of use. Until the mind is developed, such thinking just seems to require too much effort. The brain quickly becomes fatigued and jumps to a justification to stop the process. It is similar to lifting weights in the gym. No rep seems most desirable, but certainly after several, that next rep feels like pure torture. Mindlessly floating through life is then more appealing, though not truly rewarding. Mind-numbing entertainment, primitive or sensual over-stimulus, presents itself as the easy way out. But it is, in the final analysis, a downward spiral.
Consider color blindness. Usually a color-blind person does see and appreciate the full range of colors even though the color receptors are weak. It requires focus and effort to identify the color that is right in front of their face. The mind is similar. The connection between the mind and the world at hand is often weak. Some say that you must open your mind. More correctly, you must develop your mind. However, few are interested or willing to do that.
Fortunately, there is an effective methodology for development. Namely, meditate and act. You cannot meditate your way to enlightenment. Enlightenment means an integrated mind. For those willing to do it, my writings and lectures along with proper meditation offer the steps of progress. I ask you to think… but not just in a limited manner… instead in an expanded sense, integrating feelings and emotions with thoughts, perceptions and profound concepts.
Such far-reaching reflection integrates the mind with itself by harmonizing it with nature, which is the mind’s true nature. The whole brain harmonizes. It is simply the state of healthy function of the mind. Attaining that can be challenging. You may jump off on a tangent, just as a weightlifter finds a reason to not do those last couple of reps.
However, the reward is enlightenment, if you are willing to stay the course.
I laugh at myself, for even before finished reading this blog, I started to get up from the computer, or make a comment out loud, or respond to multiple stimuli in the room. Then I remembered I was reading about focus and returned to the article.
I am an especially fidgety person, both physically and mentally. Sometimes I’ve been hard on myself for it, and sometimes I’ve found appropriate applications for butterflying. At best, it shows itself as a skill in multi-tasking or juggling; other times, it seems like distraction or avoidance. The other extreme of what I can do is to fixate or obsess, and thus limit my ability to think or respond creatively or appropriately. I try to find that balance between focusing and expanding. Sometimes taking a step back or going with what is already moving at the moment offers an “in” where I was stuck, or forces me to loosen my grip and thus allows me to recieve insight or guidance from somewhere other than my limited thinking.
I can especially “fade out” when I am reading or hearing your teachings, Brahmarshi. On reflection, I figure what you are saying is bigger than my little brain. I’ll close my eyes for a bit (or leave the article and come back to it later) or let my eyes relax to take in the message more passively. I suppose over-focusing can limit how I hear something when I’m trying to understand what you are saying with my head rather than with my whole being.
At the same time, I love wrestling a concept down until I understand it (with the finesse of a dance, as brute force mangles) or at least until I am happily exhausted. The rigor feels good (like doing yoga in the sun this crisp morning!)
Rich topic! Thank you.
It is such an interesting feeling inside when I read many blogs (especially this one) and it seems as though I could explode with “knowing” the lesson and yet knowing I have a lifetime of discernment ahead to understand the lesson. That is the best way I have to describe the feeling inside. We do’not have to be a slave to our minds. 20 years ago I became aware of that without a clue of what to do about it. My workouts are not everyday (as they use to be) however discernment is everyday..sometimes most of the day. Brahmarshi, your blogs alone can keep a person mentally active for a lifetime! Still..so many will not explore and it makes me sad.
“Thank you” does not really describe my appreciation.
It’s intriguing to me how your blogs so often touch on specific issues I’m working through. I’m reading a book (at the recommendation of a therapist) called “The Mindful Way Through Depression”. It talks about awareness of what the mind is doing (For example, delusional thinking), and how to exercise it to be more attentive and mindful, aware of what “is” rather than entangled in past or future “stuff” that isn’t even based on reality. My mind tends to wrest control from my heart; it’s like my brain goes into panic mode if it’s not in control. The integration of the two is where I start to experience those moments of healing and clarity.
The book teaches a “guided mindful meditation” that I don’t feel inclined at all to do. The Surya meditation feels right. (Your last blog of Neti, Neti, Neti was so on target with helping me grapple with this.) It feels like “Mindful” practices such as taught in the book could be taken on as another conditioning if one isn’t careful, but taken in the proper manner, they’ve helped me to identify those runaway thought patterns, conditioning, that tend to control my perspectives about life.
I get into interesting discussions with my therapist. She’s helped me cope during a critical time, but it feels like part of the reason I’m going to her is to share insights I’ve learned from you. I also feel what you’ve warned about, that therapists often just want you to think like they do. The whole thing has been an interesting exercise in discernment. Your blogs are constantly helpful. Thank you.
You say many worthwhile things in your comment. It stands as a practical example of a number of the principles i teach.