Excessive thinking is rarely creative thinking. More commonly it is driven by craving (or desire) and aversion (or fear), and is often aggressive or defensive in nature. Excessive thinking loves to “attack” problems and anything or anyone that either creates problems or stands in the way of their resolution.
This type of thinking is mostly “problem-saturated,” critical of self, others or life in general, and judgmental. There are always problems. We can find them everywhere, and the thinking mind is busy trying to avoid, anticipate or fix them. However, this type of mind can turn every innocent little thing into a problem.
Excessive Thinking Thrives on Judgment & Attack
Excessive thinking thrives on “should,” “have to,” “ought to,” “can’t” and “must” (for example, “I shouldn’t be so stupid/fat/lazy,” “He should be less selfish,” “I have to go to work,” “Everything is so boring,” and so on). It holds on to old images of self, others or life in general, and forms a self-identity that is obsessed with I, me, my and mine. Getting lost in excessive thinking can lead to the narrow focus of self-obsession.
If the monkey mind is not judging or attacking ourselves or others, it can keep itself busy by creating all manner of distractions from whatever needs to be felt, faced, owned and dealt with. It can move toward denial, particularly of feelings.
Strengths & Limitations of the Thinking Mind
The thinking mind thrives on anticipating and planning, analyzing and judging. These are the strengths of the thinking mind, but it has its limitations. When we want to engage in anything that is simple, sensuous, emotional, fun and in the present moment, the thinking mind is not really needed.
Remember, if you can, what it feels like when you are hugging your beloved, a friend or your child. Recall the warmth of the feeling and the whole-body experience of a loving hug. If you are hugging your beloved or your child and at the same time you are thinking about work, are you able to give yourself fully to the sensual and emotional delight of the hug?
Thinking Mind Not Needed for Certain Things
There are myriad simple pleasures in which the thinking mind is not needed or is even a hindrance. Here are some examples:
* watching a sunset
* walking on the beach
* listening to birdsong
* playing with your children
* lying down with your lover
* communing with nature
* tasting good food
* enjoying a concert
* having fun with friends
* feeling sad
* resting for a while
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Analyze & Plan for Twenty Minutes a Day
Some of the pioneers in the study of the stress/relaxation responses, such as Hans Selye and Herbert Benson, suggested that we need to think, analyze and plan for about twenty minutes a day. The rest of the time we can just flow with our experiences, trust our inner knowing of how and when to respond, and enjoy the ride.
But how frequently does excessive thinking intrude where it is not really needed, causing us to overreact or underreact and internalize our feelings? How often do you take things too seriously? And how do we go about changing all of this?
Antidotes for Excessive Thinking
Here are some direct antidotes for excessive thinking:
* rest, relaxation and meditation;
* diaphragmatic breathing — the more deeply you breathe, the more you feel, and the more you can let go of excessive thinking;
* sensuality, awakening the senses — listening to music or really tasting your food;
* movement and exercise — when it is not too goal-oriented;
* contact with nature — gardening, hiking and so on;
* emotional intimacy — opening up to others;
* physical intimacy — allowing arousal, excitement and pleasure;
* trust — learning when to “wait and see”;
* deeply listening with empathy to another person, nature or even yourself;
* fun and play — lightening up and being less serious; and* constructive thinking — use your twenty minutes per day wisely!
Humor, Spontaneity, Creativity: Little Thinking Required
Anything that involves connecting with yourself, others and nature usually requires little thinking. Anything that involves a “lightness of being,” humor, spontaneity or creativity usually requires little thinking. Anything that requires presence is usually spoiled by excessive thinking.
Paul adds his personal experience: I know for a fact that my most profound, creative, deep and meaningful thoughts and insights come when I am not thinking. When I am in the shower, walking in through nature or just resting is when the creative flow opens up by itself.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin,
a member of Penguin Group (USA). ©2011. www.us.PenguinGroup.com.
Meditation -- An In-Depth Guide
by Ian Gawler & Paul Bedson.
Meditation is increasingly recommended for relaxation, for enhancing relationships and well-being, to increase performance in sports and business, for personal growth, and to assist healing. Introducing mindfulness-based stillness meditation, Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson explain how to build a daily meditation practice. The authors also show how meditation can be used to work with our emotions, aid healing, manage pain, or as a spiritual practice.
About the Authors
Ian Gawler is a pioneer in the therapeutic application of meditation. He is one of Australia's best known cancer survivors and advocates of a healthy lifestyle. His story offers hope and inspiration to people across the country. He is the author of the bestselling books Meditation Pure & Simple, Peace of Mind, and You Can Conquer Cancer. He is the founder of The Gawler Foundation of Melbourne, Australia.
Paul Bedson is a counselor, psychotherapist, meditation instructor, and natural therapist. He has been working in the field of mind/body medicine for more than twenty years. He teaches Mindfulness-based styles of meditation which develop wisdom and compassion through awareness of body, emotion, mind and spirit as one integrated Self.
Watch a video: What Is A Good Life? (interview with Ian Gawler)