The Space of No Thinking

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The creative space is one of NO mind.

This morning, as I was driving to the grocery store, there were these thoughts running through my head:

"What if I could just relax into ACCEPTANCE of myself, exactly as I am right now?"

"What if I could treat myself as if right now, exactly as everything is, it IS all exactly as it should be?"

I was trying to examine my recent thought patterns which were centered around "concern" for a variety of things in my life: was I spending enough time doing the right things, was I doing enough yoga, was I eating enough fruit and vegetables, was I working hard enough on the right things for my business, was I spending too much time on "non-productive" activities....

The list went on and on, and nothing seemed to be "clicking" or "flowing" during the past few weeks until the rare moments when I just let go and did the ONE thing right in front of me.

This morning, I was thinking about the feeling and energy around doing JUST THIS, RIGHT NOW. What is it about that thought which creates flow? It's certainly not a state of heightened anxiety and pushing and grasping. It's not an energy of worrying.

It's exactly the opposite. It's LETTING GO of all the worrying and relaxing the mind completely.

The mind - mine at least - wants to quantify and list and remind me of everything that still ISN'T done, NEEDS to be done, SHOULD be done. The mind isn't designed to be still and quiet. Its job, for which I’ve trained it systematically throughout a lifetime of schooling and high performance, is to be a machine constantly generating new thoughts, forming associations, laying down memories, accessing old information, recalling it on demand.

The mind is a beautiful thing...some of the time.

But then there are times when it gets in the way.

So back to this morning. I was breathing into that feeling of imagining if I could regard myself, as I was right in that moment -- driving my car, with my bank account, my number of clients, my schedule, my health, EVERYTHING about me -- as exactly the way things should be, in fact the ONLY way they could be.

What would that feel like? Who could I be if I felt that way toward me in this moment?

And then the phone rang. It was my friend Louise (that’s not her real name, but she’s a real friend).

She called to talk because she was having difficulty with a family situation across the country. She was being pained by the thought, "I wish I could be there. I just don't know if I should be here right now."

It was causing her to look at everything in her surroundings as "not right". The noisy neighbors, the cars going by on the street, the dogs barking. Nothing felt right as she experienced the world through the lens of thinking, "I shouldn't be here right now."

As I listened to her agonize over this, it occurred to me and I gently reminded her, "Louise, the only place you can be right now is exactly where you are."

"Oh that feels so good to hear. It feels like peace," she said.

And as I took in the reality of those words myself, I saw that wishing you could be anywhere else, right now, is fighting reality. When you're fighting, you know how you feel. Just imagine it. You're at war. You're battling. You're kicking and screaming, wishing it would be over soon.

Who wants to be around a person who's fighting right now? Not me. And how much time do we spend in our thoughts, fighting who we are right now? That was where my mind had been taking me so often during the past few weeks, believing and dwelling in thoughts about what was missing, what wasn’t arriving, what hadn’t been done.

There is such wisdom in the peace and space of RIGHT NOW. Louise could decide in the next minute that she is going to go through the steps to move herself from being here to being with her family: purchase a plane ticket, pack her bags, get herself to the airport, and so on.

But RIGHT NOW she is here. Until she settles into that feeling and accepts what she can do from the perfect place of RIGHT HERE, she is trapped in her own world of fighting with reality. Disconnected from herself and therefore less available for the family she loves so much.

I also asked her to consider what possibilities for healing were contained in the reality of her being HERE while her family is THERE right now. Could it be that her different perspective, several thousand miles removed from the hospital, doctors, and other distressed family members, is in fact a healing energy for the ones she loves the most and wants to take care of? Does she absolutely KNOW that she "needs to" be THERE, and not right here, right now?

The answer was "No."

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NO Thinking...Just Listening, and Play

Our talk led to a discussion of negative thinking that she has been noticing related to a different part of her life – her romantic relationships. "I've been thinking ‘It won't happen’ or ‘It'll never work out’, and I realize that I'm blocking things from coming to me. What were you thinking when all those good things happened to you this summer?"

"It was NO thinking!" I blurted out.

And it felt like such an opening, a blossoming realization to say that out loud! NO thinking!

After hearing that phrase for the first time over a year ago in relation to the state of improvisation, I felt like I finally got it, on a whole life level, today.

NO thinking is SPACE. It's not filling yourself up with affirmations, or convincing yourself to get rid of negative thoughts (which I've found always involves some level of self-castigation). It's not ADDING anything to your already active mind.

It's simply becoming empty. And we rage against emptiness because we are taught to be so fearful of having nothing at all.

I have felt the complete joy and freedom of empty mind when I've been in a state of pure listening and improvisation. It feels so good.

So good, in fact, that it feels criminal or forbidden. I've asked, "Is it true that life really is this good??" in disbelief, my mind wanting evidence to prove it could start punishing me.

Now I know that the true nature of life feels good, when we experience it from the SPACE of NO thinking.

And two things I read this week have come together to complete this picture. Both are from the Tibetan spiritual teacher, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, author of the book, Tibetan Sound Healing.

The first - Letting go.

It's such a popular term now, thrown around in yoga classes and self-help workshops all the time. Rinpoche says that when we say, "Let go", we usually focus on what we are parting with, rather than what is revealed, when we let something go. In other words, we dwell on the loss, instead of dwelling on the beauty of the new possibility unveiled.

The second - Effortless doubts and spontaneous problems.

We are so quick to believe that things will go wrong, and problems will arise. We might even accept the mantra that life just has to be hard, and that’s just the way it is. Rinpoche says, "Everybody understands effortless doubts and spontaneous problems. We always seem to have some good reasons for doubt - intelligent, educated, and philosophically profound reasons."

But when it comes to feeling joy, compassion, or love, we suddenly need proof. We seem to believe that none of these qualities can *spontaneously* manifest or effortlessly arise. It is easier for us to imagine having a problem than it is to imagine being happy without a particular reason.

And so, it’s time to ask yourself, is it true? Can you absolutely know that your doubts are TRUE? Can you absolutely know that joy cannot arise spontaneously, but problems can?

I invite you to explore your own answer to these questions.

Meanwhile, what I found today for myself was the feeling of SPACE from NO thinking. And I'm going to rest there right now.

Photo credits: Yvonne De Villiers

Kosi Gramatikoff