Is it safe to stop thinking?
How your body responds to thinking
Many people these days are familiar with meditation and at least conceptually get the idea of stopping thoughts in order to clear their mind. When we move from concept to experience we often find that this is tricker than we realize. To suspend thought, even momentarily can be quite an accomplishment.
So why are we so addicted to thinking? Why is it such a challenge to turn off our thoughts for more than a few seconds at a time? When we stop thoughts our mind is literally clear or empty. Though for many people this sounds delightful, to our physiology this emptiness can actually feel scary or unsafe. If there is no thought than what is there but wide open space, void of the activity which typically fills it and the sense of self that comes with it.
The mind empty of its thoughts tends to look for the next thought to fill it back up so that it doesn’t experience this emptiness, as its function is to have thought, and without thought its basically functionless. The thing that makes it the most scary for us here is that we are quite identified with our thoughts. Most people think that they are the thoughts they have. So to suspend thought is to suspend their sense of self, their identity, who they think they are.
Who are you if you are not your thoughts?
Awareness beyond thought
In order to begin to feel safe in a body while simultaneously not being fixated in thoughts requires that you begin to know yourself beyond thoughts. When we move beyond thought we start to move into the realm of presence. In the realm of presence rather than thinking self we experience self. This may be confusing for some because we don’t really know what is beyond thought.
That which is beyond thought is simply pure awareness. Pure awareness doesn’t have labels, names or ideas yet. Some people call it “spiritual” but really it is just a state of emptiness of thought. It is the state that comes before thought, activity, movement, sensation and your body. When you empty your mind awareness is what remains. Through using your focus you can shift into bringing awareness into the forefront rather than the background of all things, which is where it usually hangs out in our ordinary mind.
So back to safety in our body. In order to feel safe and experience our self beyond thought we must allow the discomfort of emptiness, nothingness, the void of things and eventually of self if you will. This can come in little sips and is actually what an “open mind” is. An open mind is one that is clear of the stream of mental activity, which then allows the stream of awareness to be known.
That hunger that so many of us have to be a clear vessel of love, light and true self begins here. Safety is learned through direct experiencing of self beyond thought in little tastes until we begin to un-identity with the thought based self and re-identify with awareness as self.
Dr. Amanda Hessel, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado