Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Thinking Your Way Out Of Thinking

One of AA's slogans is Think think think. Some people in the rooms find this slogan disturbing because they see thought as a hindrance to getting clean. These folks expect that if a problem user is allowed to think, then the problem user will use ratiocinationhairsplitting and argumentto evade the responsibility to try something new. I disagree with them. I believe "My best thinking got me here."
  1. I realized that I had a problem.
  2. I realized that I didn't know how to solve it.
  3. I asked for help.
  4. I learned about my patterns and triggers by writing about them.
  5. I talked honestly about my past with someone who had already achieved some sort of solution to problems similar to my own.
  6. I became willing to change my behavior.
  7. I let myself off the hook for the past and accepted responsibility for the future.
  8. I examined my past for people I had wronged, for which I still felt shame and guilt.
  9. I thanked people I forgot to thank. I acknowledged my poor behavior to those who suffered the brunt of it.
  10. I continued to watch myself and compare myself with my ideals.
  11. I practiced meditation and humble speech about my longings and fears.
  12. I listened to others and shared my story.
All of this involves thought. And thinking clearly, humbly, and lovingly will do the most good - for ourselves and those we would help.

"The greatest deeds are still thoughts. Around the thinker, the world revolves, but it revolves silently." Friedrich Nietzsche, sort of.

The problem is not thinking per se, but our irrational, superstitious, magical, and egomaniacal attachment to our own inner dialogue. I used to think (read: "drink") all night long, reading and writing with a fervor generated by a survival instinct gone awry. I honestly believed that I was uniquely situated to help the world resolve what I perceived as a general crisis of faith. I drove myself mad.

When I came to the rooms, I still believed in my unique ability to save myself and the world... but there was a chink in my armor... I was willing to listen, even though I discounted most of what I heard. I slowly began to realize that I was too close to my own problems. My fear and my pride kept me from having a realistic assessment of my situation and my abilities. I realized that uninterested but compassionate advice was necessary if I was to get better.

I also realized that my attachment to my own inner voice was irrational. I was addicted to my own thinking. But the thought-addiction was beyond my thinking. I had to think my way out of thinking by first realizing the limitations of what thinking could and could not do. This is what the Vedic gurus referred to as jñana yoga. (See endnote below.) Like the Zen masters, paradoxes and nonsensical stories were contemplated until the mind let go of its language-addiction. I had to surrender to win, give to keep, and die to live.

Now, I am playful with my thoughts. I can wrestle with a problem for the evening and still go to sleep, even if I haven't figured out a satisfying solution. I still believe in the wonderful benefit of scientific and methodical thought, but I don't need thought to solve the world or its problems. I think because it's helpful and a pleasure.

Psalm 131:
  1. LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
  2. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul [is] even as a weaned child.
ENDNOTE: The path of reuniting with Deity was referred to in Sanskrit as yoga, which is cognate with English yoke, the device that hooks oxen to each other and to the cart that they pull. There were four ways delineated for going about this reunification: raja yoga, the yoga we are most familiar with, involving meditation and posture; karma yoga, the yoga that comes from ritual and repetition of cycles of actions; bhakti yoga, the yoga that involves fervent devotion to an image of deity such as Krishna, or in the West, Jesus Christ; and jñana yoga, which involves fervent study of theological and philosophical problems until the mind frees itself from them. Jñana comes from the same original Indo-European word as does our English knowledge and the Greek gnosis.


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