I am…Therefore I think…
“I think, Therefore I am”
No, I haven’t got the title of this post backwards.
Most of us have heard the famous saying of the philosopher René Descartes “I think therefore I am” – “Cogito ergo sum”.
This famous saying forms an important part of Western philosophy. But setting aside its philosophical meaning the saying has a large amount to do with how we view ourselves.
“I think, therefore I am” implies that it is thought that makes us who we are. That “thinking” is somehow equivalent to the “I”.
And to a certain extent it’s right. Our thoughts are incredibly influential. We are where our thoughts are. We think good and we feel good. We think bad and we feel bad. We can make ourselves laugh just by thinking of a funny event.
Our thoughts carry us a long way. They form the backbone of our lives, our careers, our achievements. They are with us continually, chattering away in the background of our lives day and night.
Our thoughts drive our emotions and rush along carrying us with them. Thinking is so intimate to us, we forget we are doing it. We ruminate about things we should have said, the holiday we are planning, or the report we need to write.
And when we think these things – that’s right where we are…in the confrontation, in the holiday, writing the report.
Yet somehow we are more than this. By reducing ourselves to our thoughts we are missing out on something very, very important. Something that can make all the difference to the way we react to events, to the way we live our lives.
I am…Therefore I think…
So think about this.
How many of you have ever practiced mindfulness meditation? Mindfulness is an ancient tradition that is about observation without criticism and about being compassionate with yourself. I’ve been reading Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman and practicing the meditations.
As you practice the meditations you start to realise your thoughts are quite separate to your will, or your intention of where you want to focus your awareness. Your thoughts bubble up all by themselves and go all over the place. It’s worth trying.
With just a small amount of practice you start to see how your thoughts, quite literally, have a mind of their own. You start to also see that there’s a real you, that in your essence, is much larger, broader and wider than your thoughts.
So while thoughts are very intimate to us, and a very important tool we can’t do without, they are not the essence of us at all.
Mindful watching of thoughts allows you to access that space of yourself that is bigger, wider and broader than thoughts. That is the space where we can be in touch with true essence of us and can reconnect us with our purpose and mission. You can start to find the real you. And that is pretty magical.
And that is the space where we can decide what to think…where we can direct our thoughts, instead of our thoughts directing us. So how much easier to have a thought, emotion, mood or sensation and be able to choose whether or not to accept it or what do with it when seen like this?
So I prefer to reframe the old saying to “I am…Therefore I think…” – because recognising our real selves can help us live a more purposeful, focused and peaceful life.
Have you ever tried mindfulness meditation? How did it work for you?