‘Not Thinking’: What & How I Learnt
The concept of ‘Not Thinking’ was always lost on me. And ridiculous. Like most people, I honestly could not grasp how one could make their head shut up: my thoughts never stop racing through some sort of colorful vortex of mental images, words and the occasional hilarious meme*. It’s entertaining, but exhausting. Not to mention the fact that when you’re completely focused on what’s already in your head, nothing new can get in.
I can’t read a book when all I’m doing is thinking about the books I’ve read before; all the words will tumble right out of my attentional system. I can’t enjoy a conversation with someone when I fill in their sentences in my head beforehand; I’d make for a lousy conversational partner. I can’t enjoy my run while I’m having an inner monologue on whether or not I have to pee; I won’t notice how great (or not great) my run is going!
I accidentally learnt how not to think because of Bikram Yoga classes. And not really because the teacher tells you not to think, because like
most people everyone I learn best through experience.
First, it’s just so damn hot in class that you have to pay attention to how you breathe. If you don’t, well, sucks to be you. That’s the most important thing, especially when you’re new at it. You’d be surprised how little time you have to think about other things when you are focused on inhaling and exhaling. Next, I found that if you want to be able to hold a posture, say, like this and not fall on your ass, you can’t pay attention to anything else. Not the people around you and not the groceries you have to pick up later.
After a while the breathing and focusing became not just a necessity: I just liked my classes more when I focused completely on what I was doing: trying to do crazy postures while sweating profusely and trying not to fall over. The more I did that, the more I liked the classes and the easier things were. Which made me develop the following premise: Being distracted by your own thoughts makes most things in life harder, while concentrating on what’s in front of you makes them easier.
And that is what solved the whole ‘not thinking’ thing for me. You don’t really stop thinking, you just direct your attention to what you are doing right now. You make that the most important thing and let your thoughts just..go. Your thinking might continue, but they are secondary to whatever it is that you are concentrating on right now. Your focus is on something else than your monkey mind.
Not thinking is basically doing what it is you are supposed to be doing. You can always get all up in your head later during the day, right?
*I spent too much time on Tumblr.