When do thoughts matter?
When do thoughts matter?
Always, and never.
Thoughts always matter because our thoughts generate our perceptions and experiences. All we ever know of life is what we think in every moment. Thoughts never matter because they are fleeting images we create in our own minds. They have no weight or consequence that we don’t give to them.
Understanding that we are the authors of our thoughts and it is always up to us how seriously to take them, how long to entertain them, and what significance to give the experiences they engender is the ultimate human freedom. We hold the golden key to set ourselves free from our most negative or destructive thinking. Every thought is a chance to start fresh, to create anew. It is our birthright to recognize all thinking, ours and others’, as volitional and temporary and not get entangled in dealing with it. Unattended, thoughts will pass, like soap bubbles popping into the ether.
But that understanding of our power as thinkers does not suggest we take no responsibility for what we do with our thoughts. Seeing the Principles behind our experience is not a free pass to do or say any old thing with no consequence because it is, after all, “just a thought.” It is also not a free pass to turn our backs on clarity and a call to express ourselves on behalf of justice, compassion, freedom, innocence. The direction we take with our thoughts determines our own happiness, our ability to contribute to those we love, our interactions with other people, our respect for life, our effect on our shared time on this earth.
What matters is not the content of any thoughts we create in any given moment, but our clarity that we are the thinkers and we are always choosing what to make of what we think. What steers us to express ourselves or not is the state of mind from which the urge comes. We do have a moral center. It is called wisdom. Wisdom is the quality of thinking we experience when we learn to “read” our own states of mind and readily sidestep or ignore thoughts that occur to us when we feel insecure or off-balance. Wisdom draws us to follow, fearlessly, the thinking that comes to us when our minds are clear and calm and at peace.
Let’s say an angry person starts yelling at me in a meeting. My first, reactive, thought might be, “How DARE you? You don’t even know me! You have no right to talk to me like that!” If I understand how life works well enough to realize that that is just a first, reactive thought, an insecure thought, I would not say that out loud just because I thought it. I would settle down and wait a moment for wisdom, which could come in many forms. I might get the idea to leave it alone as there is no real threat. I might get the idea that the person is impaired or troubled and I should try to help them calm down and feel safer. I might get the idea that I should listen a little more to see if the person is pointing out something I need to know. Whatever thoughts start coming to mind when I am calm and clear-headed, I can count on the fact that they are responsive and helpful in that moment. If I respond from the deeper feelings of wisdom, whatever I do will work out. If I respond from insecurity and self-justification, whatever I do will push the feeling even lower and cause harm.
We can recognize the direction of our thinking from our own feeling state, and from the results we get. Many people do not recognize the gap between what happens when they speak their hearts from a calm mind and clear head, and when they speak their ideas from an agitated state and churning thoughts. Understanding the Principles does not keep us from taking on causes, becoming politically active, expressing our truths, standing up for others. But understanding does keep us from issuing a torrent of words when we are insecure, stressed, off-balance, upset.
There are no predictable or inevitable thoughts because no moment is exactly like any others. The quality and usefulness of our thoughts varies with our states of mind, our level of understanding, our access to wisdom. But at deeper levels of understanding in quieter states of mind, we are much more connected to the present moment, much more awake to the totality of our situation because we are not focused on ourselves alone, but on life and our part in it all. This is not something to work on; it is natural to default to that deeper state if we allow our agitated thinking to pass and wait for a quieter feeling. Wisdom is not personal; it is pure thought uncontaminated by our individual memories or worries. It always takes us to better solutions, clearer answers, constructive action.
Just imagine a world in which all people, at every level of society and in every human endeavor, had the understanding to allow negative, destructive, self-centered thinking to pass and wait for wisdom before speaking. Just imagine a world in which all people listened quietly to each other to hear the other’s wisdom. Just imagine a world in which it would never make sense to express insecure thinking out loud, and no one took personal thinking seriously. Just imagine the beautiful interactions we might have and the problems we might solve.
As we look around at the experiences we create, it is clear that every interaction is either a healing interaction, or it is not. It is up to each of us to know and respect the difference.