Some Thoughts About Thinking

I recently did a corporate “lunch and learn” on metacognition, which is our singular ability to think about our thoughts (as far as I can tell, my dog has no such capacity). This would appear abstract and likely impractical but it is actually the key to mental health.

I’m happy to work at the level of things and thoughts. The former generally involves practical solutions (problem solving) while the latter consists of philosophical solutions (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy). But I’m much more interested in the thinker—that’s where the ultimate solution lies.

The “thinker” in this context is consciousness or awareness, which is always present but seldom appreciated. As Rupert Spira counsels, “Allow the experience of being aware to come into the foreground of experience, and let thoughts, images, feelings, sensations and perceptions recede into the background. Simply notice the experience of being aware. The peace and happiness for which all people long reside there.” Elsewhere, he advises, “Be knowingly the presence of awareness.”

You can find my PowerPoint here or by clicking on the image above. ✸

P.S. If this sounds like mindfulness, it might be. Mindfulness has become one of those everyday words that now lacks meaning, or at least a shared understanding. For an interesting perspective, please see Stephan Bodian’s Beyond Mindfulness:

“For all its wonderful benefits, the practice of mindfulness has another downside: it tends to maintain the subject–object split, the gap between the one who’s being mindful, the act of being mindful, and the object of mindful attention. In other words, no matter how mindful you become, there’s always a you that has to practice being mindful of an object separate from you. As a result, mindfulness perpetuates the very sense of separation it’s designed to overcome.”

Who Am I?

I’m finally getting around to memorializing some of the “self-help” books that have helped me over the years. The thread that runs through this grouping is the difference between “I” and “me” (or “true self” vs. “false self” or “observing self” vs. “observed self”—this has been described in various ways).

David A. Frenz, M.D.

“Me,” the conceptual self, can suffer; “I,” which is pure awareness or consciousness, never can. The end of suffering involves withdrawing your attention from “me” and resting in “I.”

This can be a little difficult to understand, let alone practice, which is why I seldom use it psychotherapeutically. But for those who are ready, it can be liberating.

Anthony de Mello’s Stripping Down to the “I” (starts on Page 46) is a great place to start. If it seems like nonsense, don’t be troubled and simply ignore this post. If, however, you’re intrigued, consider reading on.