Thinking About Thinking

I’m still not sure you get it!
It seems so simple to me, and yet I sort of understand, and even empathize. I was brought up to believe it was important to get other people to like me. And it wasn’t hard. I even enjoyed it. But somewhere along the way, I was able to experience the joy of true freedom — the freedom to bare myself completely in front of others! Not even caring if they believed me or not! I’m not even sure I believe myself what comes out of my mouth. It’s like taking a good shit, particularly after a spell of constipation! Gets rid of the waste matter, and frees my mind to be filled with new stuff!

I enjoy the act of thinking. Sometimes, it’s sparked by an original insight, but often it comes from running across something an author writes. A particularly important example for me, was when I first found a quote of Mark Twain: “Life does not consist entirely, or even mainly, with events that happen, but rather with a stream of thoughts that go through one’s mind!” It struck me immediately as a very profound truth — a truth which most would probably acknowledge as true, but ignore in reassessing its implications on our behavior. I was studying psychology at the time, and began questioning the wisdom of how we treat psychological problems. Perhaps we were spending too much time trying to change behavior, rather than helping us “get over the hurt” simply by changing our thinking. A child falls and skins his knee. It bleeds, he cries, it heals, and, hopefully, he learns something useful about dealing with life’s mishaps! But it’s also possible that adults, by applying their own standards to the mishap, cause the child to think more about its importance, and embedding a life-altering belief that comes more from the reaction of others than that of one’s own.

At the time I ran across the quote, I used to create my own Greeting cards, usually by adding my own quotes to pictures I would find in movie books — especially of the old silent movies! I found a picture from one of the “Laugh In” TV shows with a silly-grinned Dan Rowan strapped to a chair with electrical wires going to his head like Frankenstein. As a Xmas card, I added the above quote to the picture, and inside wrote my greeting: “May your thoughts of the season and during the new year be happy ones!”

At some later time, I happened across a very similar, but much older, quote of a Greek philosopher: “People are bothered not by what happens to them, but by their thoughts about what happens!”. For several months after, I tried unsuccessfully to remember the source of that quote. Then, one Sunday I heard it repeated by a speaker at a Unitarian Universalist church. His talk was about “The Work” of Byron Katie, which, he said, was based on this very quote of Epictetus. Immediately after I got Katie’s book, “Loving What Is!”. Practicing her exercises had such a wonderful effect on me, I was amazed at its simplicity. Simply writing down the thoughts that brought stress into my life, and then writing the answers to the simple questions she asked. I was able to be my own therapist simply by discovering my own answers — mainly that many of my thoughts were not even really true, and what bothered me about other people was something I realized I was doing myself. Much easier to find fault in others! Also, that arguing with reality it always a losing proposition. I devoured her next book as well: “I Need Your Love, Is That True?”. When I found on the Internet that she was giving one of her 9-day workshops, I decided I had to meet this amazing person. Driving down to Miami, I didn’t even feel as though I had any personal problem I needed to work on. I just felt compelled to meet and watch her.
I was not disappointed. Some amazing experiences. Particularly, watching her work with two opposing people with opposite opinions screaming at each other, and ending up in tears and lovingly hugging. One can watch her on http://www.thework.com . One of my favorites is with a gay guy, who’s very angry at homophobic people. Answering her simple questions, he ends up smiling at himself, for realizing his problem is that he is homophobic himself, and doesn’t have to be!

So, it was through Byron Katie that I learned about her husband, Stephan Mitchell — another amazing person who helps spread love and tolerance in this crazy world!

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