Thinking about thinking about thinking
Ripples on the pond
Where the frog jumped in
I think too much. At least I think I think too much. Or maybe I just think I think I think too much….. OK - I think too much!!
In my job, I have to think a lot – analyzing clients’ problems, poring over documents and statutes looking for loopholes, combing the internet for similar cases, writing briefs, editing and more editing, all the time scheming, scheming, scheming. Going to court is like a breath of fresh air.
There is no question that thinking is a vital part of my life. I couldn’t do my job without using my brain, and the microcircuits inside the contraption I’m staring at are the product of some serious brainwork.
But an old saying comes to mind: just as the eye can't see itself, the intellect can't comprehend itself. Thinking about thinking just goes around and around like a fractal pattern.
In Zen, intellect is a two edged sword. Thinking about logical problems is fine, however discovering what our essential nature does, and how it operates, is not an intellectual exercise. Thinking about it is like boarding a locomotive headed in the wrong direction. Attempting to say more would be offering free rides to the train station.
When I walk to work, I intend to be mindful, but invariably catch myself scheming. When I walk home, I catch myself replaying the day's scenarios.
So lately, the emphasis in my Zen practice is just to be present when I’m not taking action, and when I am, to just act. At least that’s the theory. My brain takes the position that zazen is a splendid opportunity for more scheming and scenario replaying.
One of the things that seems to help at work is to take a deep breath and be present for a moment before picking up the phone.
Another is to perform frequent micro tea ceremonies throughout the day. I keep a carafe of green tea far enough away from my desk that I have to get up and walk over to it, and I use a small cup that needs refilling often.
If there’s time, the icing on the cake is a stroll in the nearby forest, where scheming and replaying seem to fade into the rushing sounds of the creek.
Like the hallucinations in the final scene of A Beautiful Mind, I don’t imagine random thoughts will ever go away, but with practice, I’ll pay less attention to them.
So c’mon, Monkey Mind, give me a hug and then run off and play!