When taking a test, why do people always tell us to trust our first answer? Why do we remember some person’s name that was elusively on the tip of your tongue earlier, in the shower or before we drift off to sleep? Why do we have some our greatest creative ideas in the shower? When we are doing a crossword puzzle and get stuck on a word for an eternity, why do people suggest that we put it down for a while? And, why is it that when we pick up the puzzle a little later the letters practically jump into the boxes? The answer to all of these questions is “because that is when we are not thinking” or “we stopped thinking so much”.
The complete title of this piece should be “Stop Thinking and Just Know” or, even better – “Don’t Think with Your Brain, Know with Your Soul”. When you know that God is part of you – in your soul (what Hindus call Atma), you also know that God’s infinite knowledge – or if you prefer, the infinite knowledge of the Universe – is also in your soul. Those moments when you are in the shower or drifting of to sleep or even driving you car, are moments when you are knowing with your soul. You are not consciously trying to think and in doing so, you brain is left out of the process. The great Yoga master Swami Sivananda put it in a very simple yet profound way when he referred to this as “knowing without thinking”.
So, why is thinking and knowing so different?
First, thinking with your brain is not a bad thing. In our daily lives, we use our brains all of the time to do analytical thinking, to store and recall names and dates, remember the size of our paycheck, to do basic problem solving, and to do our taxes – ugggh. The soul, on the other hand, provides answers to things that we may not have stored in our brains – no matter how many analytical processes we draw on to attempt to connect the dots. The soul provides us with solutions that we never even would have considered with our brains. The soul gives us creative ideas and what we call “thinking outside of the box”. It is an always open door to God’s infinite knowledge, which is really in our soul. The soul points out that we already had the answer, but our brains stomped right on it by over-analyzing. When just one strand of lights goes out on the Christmas tree, the brain tells us to run to the hardware store and buy some more, but the soul tells us how to fix the problem. If we just ask for the solution (true story).
Second, you need to realize that knowing with your soul is instantaneous and thinking with your brain takes time. Think of your brain as a computer that you ask a question and it does some processing – some analysis – and gives you an answer. No matter how powerful the computer is, there is still some amount of time elapsing between asking the question and having the answer. That wee bit of time, now matter how brief, is the problem. Even one millisecond allows the destructive ego to slip in and muddy the waters with its various forms of doubt, second guessing, and pride. Some people like to distill this phenomenon down to cutesy cliches like “paralysis by analysis”, but these phrases do nothing to explain why this occurs.
Our souls always have, or have access to, the infinite knowledge of God, the universe. When we come back into the physical world as babes, our souls have all of that knowledge and our brains are virtually empty except for our basic survival instincts. This explains the sometimes extraordinary spiritual abilities of children, even the very young. There is lots of knowing and very little thinking. Our brains start out as empty sponges and as we grow, our brain fills with all kinds of knowledge, experiences, societal values and dogmas. As our brain fills with these things, the ego also grows. Gradually, our ego draws us to the thinking side, often destructive thinking, and we are drawn away from knowing/listening to our souls.
I have been a computer programmer and system designer for over 20 years and know all too well that the best designs or a fix to a nagging bug come to me in the shower or when throwing a ball around for 15 minutes at work.
Throughout time, many great artists have known the powerful role that knowing plays in the creative process. It has been described in many ways, the inner voice, listening to God, and divine inspiration, to name but a few. And, in the end, it all distills down to the idea of knowing/listening to the soul.
“When I am traveling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep; it is on such occasions that ideas flow best and most abundantly.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The great jazz guitarist, Pat Martino, on the topic of improvisation, once said, “Try to learn everything you can, and then forget it.” i.e. stop thinking with your brain. Great improvisation is instantaneous – from the soul. Sometimes you might just be noodling around on an instrument. You look up unknown minutes later not even remembering what you just played and your friend is just staring at you. One of you eventually says what the other one is thinking, “Where the (blank) did that come from?” That, my friends, is a beautiful moment!
When things in your day are clicking or flowing, when there are truly no problems and just solutions, you are knowing with your soul. This is sometimes referred to as “just being” or the “I AM”. God has already provided the answers for you. You don’t “access” them. They are already there – you just have to know it. When you are consciously aware of this, you can readily apply it to any aspect of your life. More and more it will just happen, and you will be aware of it. You will observe it happening. You will become fearless, because you will know that all of the answers are inside of you.
In your spiritual endeavors, be willing to try things you’ve never done before. You grow by taking chances and not worrying about making mistakes, the outcome, or what others will think. Whether it be astral projection, healing, talking to Gautama or God or and Archangel (true stories), just know that there are no right or wrong ways. Any real truth or skill can be distilled down to the exquisitely simple.
The trick is then to take the concept of knowing from the conceptual to the experiential. To listen to what is inside of you or to believe that you have it all inside of you is daunting for most people. Our egos, thinking, put the doubt, second guessing, etc… inside of us. We find it easier to look outside for answers.
Here is one little exercise to use to nudge you in the right direction. It will help you get comfortable with knowing that you have access to the infinite knowledge of God/the universe. Over time you will start to realize that it is all inside of you. When you have a question or problem, visualize the question being written down on a fine piece of square parchment. Say the question in your mind. See the four corners of the parchment folded in to meet in the middle and then sealed with red wax and a stamp. Now visualize the sealed question being sent floating off into the universe. Then forget about it. Let it go from you mind so that you are not thinking about it. At some point, often very quickly, an answer will come to you in some form. It may just pop into your head, or be triggered by a song, a TV add, or something someone says. Don’t be looking for it to come, but when it does, you’ll say, “Ohhh.” Don’t second guess it or doubt it. Go with it and thank God/the universe for the blessing i.e. express gratitude. Practice this often and over time you will transition to just asking the question in your head without the need of the visualization. You will know that the answer is inside of you.
The reality is that you don’t need me or anyone else to help or tell you how to do this. Be your own guru. Just know that you are already doing it. So start thinking less often and start knowing more often.
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