The role of ‘thought’ in our experience of life and the world around us has been a defining understanding over the last few years for me. But it’s never been in such sharp relief as in the last 17 months. I am bemused by the observation of myself seesawing between different worries, concerns and misunderstandings as I try (along with the rest of humanity) to make sense of how we’ve got to where we are.
What I seem to have forgotten along the way is how important the space between thoughts is when I get caught up in the moment to moment distractions called ‘information’. I have found myself spending hours online looking for answers and being drawn further down the rabbit hole marked ‘conspiracy’, which has simply fueled more worries, concerns and misunderstandings.
When I realised this was happening I did what I usually do, and turned to books (fiction and non-fiction) to soothe my troubled soul. This was how I came to be reading Carlo Rovelli’s book, Helgoland, in which he takes us on a journey into the history and theories of quantum mechanics. I cannot claim to understand even half what he talks about, but the bits I do grasp have been pointing me back towards that which I knew, and then forgot, that our thoughts become the things and reality we see around us.
With very little prompting or persuasion I had found myself in a nightmare of concern for the future of humanity. Reading Carlo’s work reminded me everything exists only in relationship with others ‘things’ and that this was an experience of my own creation and bore no resemblence to the reality that exists beneath the surface of what we generally accept to be true.
On his journey through quantum he continually points toward the human construct we use to try and make sense of where, when and how we ‘are’. And in conversation with my husband (whose book it actually is) I’ve come to see time in particular as the space between the events that make up our history rather than as a linear process.
This shift in perspective helped enormously, and it was with some relief I picked up an old favourite The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. In a fourth, fifth or even perhaps sixth reading of it, I am again returned to my earlier acceptance that the only ‘time’ that exists is now. The past is gone and I look at the events that make it up via the lens of a memory that changes as I change in understanding and feelings about those same events. And of course the future doesn’t exist causing me to reflect on the truth that tomorrow never comes because we are always experiencing one endless ‘now’.
Having said that, I’m equally aware that my thoughts drive my beliefs which in turn influence my behaviours and so my actions. By removing myself from the ‘now’ and trying to second guess what might happen next I effectively lost the ability to accept what ‘is’ of current circumenstance and began viewing everything through the one-ended telescope of fear. Fear of what might happen when I extrapolate from past events, and fear of what I might lose in the future. Neither of these states were helpful!
So, I’ve been returning mindfully to the space between thoughts on as regular a basis as I can. Because this is where the present moment exists. And it’s useful that it also happens to be where clarity and wisdom reside too. And I can see that fear means I often act in ways that cloud my judgement, encouraging me to do things I wouldn’t normally do because I fear an outcome I can’t possibly know.
Our thoughts are extraordinarily powerful things. They are not to be dismissed lightly as they give us the ability to navigate in a world that looks linear. I can after all set up an appointment or meeting in the ‘future’ and be reasonably sure everyone invited will attend. But that’s the only role the mind should play; it’s a helpmeet to manage life, not the creator of life.
My aim when I enter the space between thoughts is not to get rid of the mind completely, that’s impossible. Rather I want to accept what is and allow this seat of all creativity and insight to provide the insight and inspiration that provides a deep knowing about what I should do next without being caught up in the what if’s and maybe’s that accompany a focus on past or future that occurs when I venture down the rabbit hole.