The Loving Thought
Updated: Dec 24, 2021
Why do we not see the mind as spiritual?
Those that support the practice of meditation tend toward a skepticism of thoughts. The presupposition is that our mental faculties deceive us, distract us and take us farther from the truth of the heart. And yet, alternative medicine and integrative spirituality praise the body as some kind of angelic animal. When we talk about intuition, we valourize the heart and biological as a truer pathway, seeing our brains as something super-powerful but perhaps not on our side. Whether this is the Cartesian mind/body duality or the polarization of the scientific and the spiritual, the mind is spoken of as reserved for mechanistic work rather than integrative softness and growth.
This does not reflect my experience perhaps because I primarily process intuition through thoughts and ideas (claircognizance). I agree that many would benefit from ways of quieting the mind through meditation, movement and a reduction of stimulants, but this is not so as to reduce the impact of our thoughts but rather to accentuate their effectiveness.
Sometimes when I get overwhelmed by a buildup of 'shoulds' or 'coulds' and feel my list of unattended thoughts accumulate until they impose a hefty weight on my consciousness, I find it helpful to see my thinking as a kind of game. Listen for each new thought like a clue. Make thinking my focus. Not so as to police it, but to really pay attention.
I have been toying with the idea that we sometimes misrepresent the ADHD mechanism. When I start a task and my mind immediately reminds me of something else I'd like to do, it is not trying to screw me over. It is showing me the next directive. It does take a certain amount of discipline to finish what I started before moving on but sometimes it is good to jump ship and go to the next thing.
Recently a story came up online questioning the practice of putting kids on Santa's lap, particularly the way we as a society giggle when they cry for the pictures we've forced on them. The morality of this argument on parenting doesn't interest me but what does is the way in which we as adults also 'suffer through' things that we no longer enjoy because we so valourize finishing things.
To change one's mind is seen as a cop-out or a failure, I sign of a broken personality that is inconsistent. While I am a firm believer in the virtue of accountability such as being on time (a challenge for me) or not cancelling last minute plans with someone you care for (I've gotten good at this), sometimes we take it too far.
If we pick up a book and it doesn't particularly interest us, we may halt the entire reading enterprise by convincing ourselves to trudge through until the end. If we were to put it down and keep picking up a new book until it piqued our interest, we would likely read more. At the very least, we would give it more tries, approaching it with a spirit of playfulness and curiosity, rather than one of solemn, begrudging obligation.
So much of the work I do with one-on-one clients is a matter of untangling them from doing things they no longer want to do. So what about those things that we have to do?
The mind often tells us. I stopped writing to-do lists a few years ago because I noticed that the act of putting it on paper seemed to lighten the load a task posed on my psyche. It gave me the illusion of addressing the issue without having moved forward on it at all. I found it better to let the thought continue to recur like a pestering child until I gave it attention. And mostly what I learned is that one must seize the moment to give the thought attention when it calls before it gets frustrated, gives up and we lose our grasp on accountability.
The amount of times I have walked by a small mess at home that has caused me stress but that I ignored for days or weeks on end is countless. In my intuition workshop recently, I facilitated the participants in communicating with their homes. We asked them what they needed and wanted from us. Mine asked me to attend to it in 5 minute increments. In other words, as a friend of mine once told me, if I see something that needs attention and it can be done in less than 5 minutes, do it right away.
When I stop putting off my thoughts for a later time ("text that person and give them an update on their request"; "look for the wrapping paper in the basement"; "honour your commitment to daily writing") I am treating my mind with the same respect I would desire from a friend or colleague. If we simply listened to "I'm tired, I want to sleep" rather than treating the mind like a faulty machine that produces the wrong commands and trying to override it ("have more coffee"; "no that's not the plan" etc), we would realize its benevolent role in our body's expression.
I experiment with treating my daily life as a form of active meditation - not so as to reduce thoughts (though this seems to be an unplanned side effect) but so as to give them space to be heard. On Sunday I dove affirmatively into what i fear about my own ADHD tendencies and doubled down on my childlike curiosity and impatience. What happened? I picked up a book I haven't touched in years. I made a drawing. I researched some things. Did I accomplish anything outstanding? No. But picking up a book and making a drawing are definitely two things that could've accumulated on a dusty, idealistic to-do list rather than bubbling up in their spontaneous beauty.
We have choices. When I am resisting a thought, I create inner antagonism and angst. When I see the winter sunlight waning as I write and think "I should go walk my dog and enjoy the sun while it lasts" many could see this as a distraction from what they're doing or a sign of an anxious mind that isn't present. But is this not presence? Pursuing the thought, could there not be a beautiful - even necessary - occasion there to enjoy the daylight with my dog?
My mind is not out to get me. Neither is yours. Just like the body, heart and soul, it requires tenderness, respect and good education. And you do not need to ignore, restrict or compartmentalize your thoughts in order to achieve harmony. Quite the contrary.
Experiment with this idea that your thoughts are your intuition. Of course if your thoughts are telling you to call someone and tell them off because you are filled with rage, question your thoughts until you feel some calm restored in the body.
It's time to go. The winter sun won't be out for much longer and it would be a great time to walk my dog for both our sake. The next thought is calling, sure to land somewhere as my feet smack the pavement.
Calling in our most beautiful, helpful thoughts who deserve some respect after being mistreated and mistrusted for so long. Long live the loving mind.