Thinking About Thinking
In my vocation (engineering) and my avocation (writing), thinking is a highly prized ability. On the spiritual side of my life, it gets mixed reviews. There are people who believe thinking gets in the way of grasping the 12 Steps. I’ve been told I think too much and said it about myself. I have a friend who says, I know I’m in trouble when I start thinking. I wonder, Didn’t you have to think to come to that conclusion? Others say, My best thinking got me here and My head is a dangerous place to be alone. Yet in Al-Anon literature, I can find the single word slogan … Think.
I found an interesting website, 164 and More, that lists the 43 occurrences of the word thinking in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It mentions wrong thinking, twisted thinking, negative thinking and wishful thinking. It talks about clear thinking, positive thinking and straight thinking. It mentions finding a new way of thinking and asking God to direct our thinking. It says thinking can be bad, not that it is bad. Whew. Because the way I see it, it’s almost impossible not to think. Why do you think meditation can be so hard?
I’ve been reading Richard Carlson’s book, you can be HAPPY no matter what. You probably know Carlson from is best known book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and It’s All Small Stuff). His premise is that every feeling is preceded by a thought, so that by understanding our thinking process, we can feel happy more often. He says we confuse our thoughts with reality, while they are only our perception of reality. How many times have you found that the actions of a friend that seemed directed against you actually had nothing to do with you, yet you felt sad or betrayed? He talks about how our thought systems, built over a lifetime of experience color our perception of reality. By understanding that we are the thinkers of our own thoughts … and that they are not, in fact, reality … he suggests that we can not take each thought so seriously, deciding which to focus or act on. That makes a lot of sense to me.
He makes one leap that I won’t follow, saying that all events are neutral … we make them positive or negative with our thoughts. It’s the same leap he made when he said, It’s All Small Stuff. Maybe in the cosmic sense, everything is neutral but I don’t want to be that detached. When I lose a dear friend or tragedy strikes in the world, it’s not neutral, not in any sense that a compassionate human can swallow. Beyond that, Carlson’s book provides an interesting approach for an over-thinker to deal with his thoughts without giving them up.
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