My thought patterns are unpredictable. Sometimes they flow in a logical way. One thing will lead to another thing which is related to the first thing. But not always. Sometimes a thought comes to mind which is unexpected and seems random. I like when my mind works clearly and flows logically especially when I’m problem solving or performing some task that requires that type of thinking. But my mind usually doesn’t work that way unless I put concerted effort into it. When I’m just chilling out, my mind floats from image to image or word to word like in a dream and sometimes very rapidly.
I was eating lunch the other day with a good friend who told me about Richard Rohr, a Franciscan monk and author who writes about contemplation. We tend to think of contemplation as another, fancier word for thinking. But Rohr has an altogether different idea of contemplation. He says that contemplation – rather than simply thinking thoughts, per se – is actually the act of paying attention to your thoughts which are probably spontaneous and all over the place, and looking for patterns. Ultimately the goal is to use a ‘higher’ form of reason, i.e. your principles, your values, to critique your thoughts that are inconsistent with your ideals. This is a discipline and takes time. The goal is to correct bad ways of thinking.
I used to think I had no control over my mind in this way. The mind is so mysterious, who could tame it? But that’s a silly idea. We have no problem recognizing the body’s need for discipline and exercise. You have arms. They are your arms but if you work out your arms they will be much stronger than if you don’t. The mind has a reflexivity in the same way. You are who you are. There is a certain baseline personality that probably is unchangeable under any circumstance. But you can change how you think. You can train your mind to see things differently. You can learn new things. You can grow.
The thoughts I don’t like in my own mind are usually selfish thoughts. Many times my first thought is a self-serving one, or at least self-interested. So when I notice a thought like this I tell my mind that I expect better, that I can do better.
© Daniel Douglas