Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thinking Versus Listening

“I think, therefore I am.”  (Rene Descartes, philosopher)  It is the classic Western statement about where the Self resides.

It is in the mind that the concept of “I” exists.  At least for most of us, most of the time.  In the mind is where we believe resides the essence of “me” – my memories, imaginings, and beliefs.  It is the storehouse for my accumulated facts, knowledge, and the conclusions that I have drawn.  It is where I “control” my life – my decisions, logic, moral code, ambitions.  From these, my mind then triggers my actions.

To exercise that mind, we “think.”  We “talk” in the quiet of our minds, walking through a story or a lecture to ourselves.  It is a very active and engaged action.  The sense of “I” is present throughout this thinking process; the word “I” itself is often heard.  “I” am very much in control.  Or so we think.

But this form of “thinking” is typically a self-fulfilling, gratuitous activity.  Often, we unwittingly lead ourselves though rationalization to where we had already decided to go.  We edit our personal stories as we choose to remember them.  Many of our beliefs are in fact cloned from the beliefs of various authority figures we have encountered along the way.  We think we are making our own decisions, and believe we are doing something “new.”  Yet we remain decidedly a creature of habit, repeating thoughts and actions in an endless repetition.  We change the surrounding scenery on the stage of our own personal drama; our plot remains unchanged.  We think we are in control of our minds; in reality we are more often the captive of our mind acting on its own.

Knowing this, in our spiritual pursuit we acknowledge the reality of our subservience to the mind instead of our illusionary domination.  And in that recognition itself, we begin our first steps in reasserting the true “I” that we really are.

“If we don’t know who we are, we will never know how to live.”  (Rev. Billy Graham)

We do this by setting aside “thinking” – the proactive activity.  We give up creating thoughts.  In its place, we learn the skillful art of listening to our mind.  We separate ourselves from thinking and become the passive observer of what the mind thinks, a listener to the thoughts we already have.  We picture ourselves as a separate but good friend of our mind.  We listen – as we would with a dear friend – as our mind speaks to us.

As a good listener, we hear our friend’s thoughts and offer no commentary.  We make no judgments about what we hear; all thoughts are acceptable in that moment.  We do not rush our friend’s words; we wait patiently for the next thought to come in its own good time, when it is  ready.  We ask timely and pertinent questions only to obtain clarity for a better understanding – to benefit both our self and our friend.  We offer opinions only when asked, and never try to impose our will or perspective on our friend.  We do not put our own words into our friend’s thoughts.  We do not write and tell our own story; we hear the story that is unfolding before us.  We understand that we are simply an audience of one, facilitating our friend’s desire to be heard.

And what do we then hear?  Maybe a single word.  Perhaps a short phrase.  On a rare occasion, a complete sentence.  Those small fragments open a window of insight to us, a window to which we will patiently but continually return as that view continues to wondrously expand and illuminate.

It takes a lot of work and practice to know how to listen to your Self.  But when we stop to truly LISTEN to our mind, we stop creating more thoughts, more add-ons to the “I” we are constantly creating.  Instead, we get to know the “I” that is already there.  No additional layers are needed.  No new illusions need to be tacked on to my “I.”

It is in talking that we do.  But it is in listening that we learn, understand.  The “I” that is created from one non-stop thought after another is an I that never really grows, never really changes, never finds its own destiny.  The “I” that evolves from informed listening is the knowledgeable I, fully aware of his/her true being.  And that being, freed from the dominating confines of its thoughts, becomes now free to be “thine own true self.”  The soul.

A good friend, who is a deep listener with no personal agenda other than your own, is a friend to treasure.  Can we be such a friend to our Self?

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”  (Ram Dass)

© 2014 by Randy Bell  

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