The Thinker

“The less I think, the more I love.” -My friend

I have come to trust, despite dubious moments, that there is no solution in rough and tough self-talk and obsessive thinking. You know. The thinking that warns and threatens. That runs the black and white tapes of rigidity and scarcity. The bad girl tales. Those are beyond tired. I am not a contestant on a gameshow facing sudden death if I choose the wrong door. That doesn’t mean I rely on some sort of sickly-sweet fairytale head in the clouds nonsense either. But when my thinking is healthy (or perhaps when it ceases), it is gentle and tender, non-clinging, and very lighthearted. It has humor and levity and great perspective. There is always a solution, always a way out. I doubt you would even call this Thinking. Good old Eckhart Tolle would tell me that this is my Being observing the Thinker. I trust that he’s right. For many years, Tolle pursued a depth and breadth of knowledge and discovered its inevitable emptiness. He is by no means a dumb or naive man, and he understood the value of thought and scholarship, (and if you ask me, more people need to gain resonant knowledge) but he also saw that it was not true wisdom. Thinking is not the ultimate truth. What could be?

I get so tired of what my mind does. My mind loves to create all forms of hate. Fear, worry, judgement. Guilt, shame, dread. You name it. It loves to spin. To compare. To create teams and sides and keep a big score. It likes thinking it knows everything or else knows nothing and deserves to kill its host. Yes, I meditate. I practice yoga. I get my twelve steps on and pray to God and write in journals and talk to friends about these experiences. I try to help others and enlarge my spiritual life. Doesn’t matter. None of this gets you off the hook of the human condition. Next to a life dulled by heroin or a car accident rendering me braindead or some kind of sci-fi lobotomy, there is no getting out of this head of mine or getting this head out of me. Even the Dalai Lama has had shitty thoughts. Obviously Eckhart Tolle does. The mind is here to stay. But at least I can see it for what it is today and not constantly believe what it is telling me. And there is great relief and compassion in knowing that we all have this, regardless of our differing life circumstances. We may or may not all be one… but we all think weirdly. That awareness makes me more likely to forgive and love.

The spiritual path is often described as one that narrows – “the razor’s edge.” I don’t love that definition, but I understand the idea. The path does narrow in a way, as we are no longer able to dull the mind with our old vices (despite our vain attempts), but I believe it leads to wider open spaces. Certainly different spaces. In the first couple of years recovery, I was busy enough schlepping away the very old garbage that had piled up and buried my spirit. The spirit was always there, as it is in all of us – this great hearth – but I cleaned the gunk out and built for the first time around it a sturdy foundation. And I was regularly able to shimmy past daily anxiety and despair and hide in that safe internal space, where I could feel that everything was alright. This was merely a beginning. This was all feeling and unfreezing grief and trauma and, honestly, surviving. Hanging on for dear life – trying to stay sober and not hurt myself in giant ways. Once I got out of survival mode and really started living, the thinking got loud – because I was finally awake enough to hear it.

I didn’t know just how much my mind spun until I dropped all of my self-destructive dances. I could distract it with all sorts of food and body issues. Counting and measuring and weighing and buying are fantastic mind-controllers. Nothing works like disordered eating. Smoking worked for a time, and the race to finish the loathsome teaching certification courses. Workaholism – very effective. Our sad stories even work for a while, the hyper-focus on others and past traumas, both real and indulged. When I finally resolved The Eating Disorder and left the job that drained me of my life force, my thinking went into the high gear. Don’t get me wrong – my life opened up big and wide and I certainly felt happier and more whole. Codependent behaviors dissolved and I gave less of a fuck of what others thought, but I also became far more aware of the junk that was rolling around inside of my head. I always knew it was there, the incessant fear and worry and perpetual future/past glance, but there was no numbing it or outrunning it. There it was, and there I was, stripped bare. No sword, no shield. Turns out, I didn’t need any weapons. The Thinker is the emperor with no clothes, and it disappears when we stare it in the face. When we smile at it, actually.

As a wise Buddhist once said, “just as the salivary glands secrete saliva, the mind secretes thoughts.” It just does what it does, and it’s impersonal. The Thinker is a prankster. A liar. It has an or else quality to it, a threat to open the trap door. And it is convincing. It is very hard to ignore and mistrust when it’s running its trap. It isn’t soft or gentle or open-minded – it is stark and blinding and in a great big urgent hurry. It seems afraid. As if something is holding a gun to its head. Like it doesn’t really like its tedious job of spinning silly stories. There’s no removing it. And yet in that reality, there is freedom, because you realize it isn’t all you. You are beyond it and above it – you can see it. You can look directly fucking at it. And when you pay close attention, it slows.

It gets quieter. You get gaps, moments, sometimes longer stretches of serenity and contentment. There is that larger something whispering that definitely knows the truth. Call it Being, God, Spirit, Divine Goodness, whatever. It says, it is all good, dear one. You’re forgiven. Let go. Love yourself. Love others. Forgive. You’re loved. You’re love. I love you. You’re safe. Nothing is a big deal. Just be. Etc. Ahhh. That is the truth. The soft gentle voice. The Higher Self that is irrevocably connected. The One Who Knows. That’s the Reality. And you can learn to trust this and still balance a checkbook, get the AC fixed, feel bothered by annoying people. There’s no need for misty mountaintops and renouncing all earthly possessions. (You can do that, too, though, if you feel so obliged.)

The more I seek and search to find freedom from this lump of matter between my ears, this Thinking beast, the more I discover that larger truth of why we are here: to experience love, both for ourselves and others. Even as I type that, I cringe. It sounds so lame and kumbaya. Or else it sounds so simple. Or trivial. Freaking Pollyanna. And hate in some form always seems justified. Sometimes, it is justified. But so what. Nothing grows from hate, and even if love isn’t always initially sincere or profound, in the long run it’s the only important thing, and in the short run it feels better. The less I think, the more I love, and loving is a lot more fun, once you get used to it. Again, and again, and again.


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