by David Spero
“Name one thing that you can do better without thinking,” my science loving friend Parrish challenged. So I thought about it. Then I stopped thinking and five such things came to me. It turns out a pretty important list. If you think all the time, you will miss out on the best life has to offer and cause a lot of grief in the process. Give your thinking brain some time off when you want to:
1.Appreciate and create beauty. What does thinking have to do with appreciating a work of art, a piece of music, a sunset or a beautiful body? When you want to create, do you think about “Oh, let me put some red here and some blue there,” or do you just do what pleases you? This strategy even applies to some writing, especially poetry
We might do some thinking after we’re done, for revisions or edits. Novelist James Ellison wrote, ““You write your first draft with your heart, and you rewrite with your head.” The creative force is the energy of life, the source of ideas and beauty. The thinking brain can putter around and fix things up, but it can’t create.
2. Giving and receiving love. Does thinking help you find love? For me, it more often interferes with noticing the love that is there. The brain can keep us away from love, because it might be dangerous. That’s the brain’s function; to protect us from our hearts’ rashness and the world’s menace. It doesn’t help find love, give love, or accept love from others.
3. Laughter and humor. There are thoughtful jokes. “Dr. Pavlov is sitting in a bar having a beer. A phone goes off. Pavlov jumps up, swats his forehead and says, “Oh shit. I forgot to feed the dog.” (Pause for laughter.) Most things that make us laugh aren’t so cerebral, though. They’re funny until you think about them too much. When we stop evaluating what we do, we can sit back and laugh at ourselves. If we analyze our behavior or others’, we can’t.
4. Relaxation. Probably, most of us have experienced how thinking can make us nervous and wind us up. Physical sensation, breathing, becoming lost in a sensation or an activity calms us down. I was walking in a redwood grove last week and suddenly realized that I couldn’t hear the deep silence, couldn’t feel the peace, because my brain was making too much noise with useless thoughts. I need to avoid thatahabit.
5. Physical performance. When a baseball player swings a bat at a ball, he does not think about it. If he did, the ball would be past him before he ever got the bat around. A jazz musician doesn’t think about her solo while playing it nor a dancer about her steps while performing them. You might do some thought in advance as preparation, but the best action is usually thoughtless.
The value of thoughtlessness particularly applies to sex. Both men and women can get distracted by thought and fail to experience the sensory delights their bodies are having. I have observed couples muddling through a sexual experience talking to each other about what they’ll be doing on vacation. Maybe they were bored, but don’t we want to focus on feelings, especially delightful ones? Thinking about sex is the opposite of doing it. Thinking in general is the opposite of experiencing.
Have you gone through days of continuous thought, stressful ones like worry or excited ones like planning? You get to the end of the day and can’t remember a thing you did. You missed it all. I hate it when that happens, and I try not to have days like that. Meditating helps. I know I still need to think sometimes, but maybe a lot less than I do. Save the brain for what it evolved for, solving real problems, and give it a rest when you want to create, love, laugh, relax, or be sexy.