I’ve long been convinced about the value of Presence, a.k.a. mindfulness, and have worked to cultivate it in my life. Recently I had a breakthrough in my self work (which I may or may not write about in a future blog post, depending on inspiration) and I currently feel qualified to say a few things about the topic.
In Presence and mindfulness teachings, as well as in some meditation teachings (which intend to cultivate mindfulness but don’t always use that word), it’s often said that the goal is to “not think”. While I do see the point here, I have personally found that particular focus to be incredibly unhelpful. “Not thinking” seems to be impossible, and in fact our brains in general don’t really work in negatives; if you attempt to avoid or eliminate anything in your life, a habit for example or a life situation or anything, you tend to get frustrating results until you learn to formulate your desire in positive terms. In hypnosis, unconscious suggestions must necessarily be formulated in the positive; saying “don’t be hungry” is understood by the subconscious essentially as, “be hungry”.
I once experienced a very, very deep state of Presence and in that state, I didn’t stop thinking. My thoughts instead became much more purposeful, more clear. I didn’t have any thoughts without them having a purpose. I in fact realised I was coming out of that state first when I noticed – a single, meaningless thought. It was a replaying of a conversation I had had before, the sort of compulsive thought I have all the time in my everyday life, but in that context it was very clearly different to what I had been experiencing until then.
I now understand that the goal is not to “not think”, but to cultivate space between my thoughts. Space has maybe a deeper meaning than it might sound at first, but even the most basic understanding of the word points in the right direction. When I focus on space – or shall we say Space with a capital S – thought naturally slows down, and gains more purposefulness, clarity, and intelligence.
If I find my thoughts are becoming cluttered, more meaningless, and less intelligent, I might stop for a moment to attempt to bring more Space back in there. I would use what Eckhart Tolle calls a “portal”, for instance focusing on my breath, or deeply perceiving the energy fields or aliveness of trees and flowers. Then, I can go back to thinking about whatever I need to think about, and the thoughts are clearer and more productive.
On evaluation, some thoughts are clearly pointless, and some are more valuable. I engage in the valuable thoughts using Space as a way of bringing more intelligence into the equation. If I’m connected with Space, the pointless thoughts tend to disappear of their own accord.
I believe people are scared of Space and that is why they engage in meaningless thought. Compulsively, constantly thinking is a way of blocking out the emptiness. These people falsely equate emptiness with death. They think there can be no sense of self without “stuff”. In reality, a sense of self can exist in the void, too.
It’s a bit like the sort of households some people keep, where every single bit of empty space on tables, shelves, and walls is filled with meaningless knick-knacks and cheap decorations. Most of us sense that with more space between the decorations, those items we do have gain more meaning.
When meditating formally, I’m currently inspired not to dismiss all thoughts. The focus is on bringing in more Space, which causes some thoughts to disappear and others to come to the surface, asking to be dealt with. I deal with them if that seems to be necessary and then when it feels good to do so, return to cultivating Space.