Relationship with Thinking
Second Year invites your relationships with the 4 ways of Knowing to make themselves obvious. It is not surprising then when all sorts of things wake up for trainees in Second Year. I always see it as our wholeness responding to the space the training gives people to earnestly and openly explore what goes on for them in their ways of knowing.
Often people are taken a little by surprise at the intensity of what happens. Some people do engage with what has awoken and use the opportunities presented for their growing. Others instead seem to tighten their efforts at control or glue themselves ever more firmly to their thinking and feeling maps. They KNOW for sure the reasons something is happening and refuse to explore that rigidity in themselves.
The training offers a way of meeting with whatever is happening through Imagery. We don’t necessarily discuss, explain or neutralize through trying to understand. That is, we don’t prioritize how our thinking may explain something. Instead we focus on the in the moment experience and use it as a doorway to a journey. Aliveness is always in the moment so whatever the experiencing is, that’s where we go so as to meet a guide. That means that whatever the feeling that is present in the moment is most often the focus. Usually, feeling is what underpins even the thinking that wakes up. This is why we often ask people to go deeper and explore what is under the Thinking that is active. It is the way we grow.
Thinking offers maps. It offers explanations. It judges and compares. It is based in language and so can offer statements that seem definitive. “This is happening because….” “If you were doing this correctly, I wouldn’t…..” “Obviously, he/she/they don’t really understand” “If we met in person then…” “It is all your fault…” “It’s the group’s fault…” “ I understand what is going on. I don’t need to journey”
In Western Culture, we have been taught to value Thinking statements over and above feeling and imagery and sometimes, even the direct experience of our senses. Moreover, we have been taught to value other people’s thoughts. We rarely get a chance to allow our thinking to participate with other ways of knowing. We also rarely get the chance to allow ourselves to meet our natural thinking, the thinking that existed in us before it was trained to operate in a specific way, by our upbringing, our school and our culture.
Thinking is wonderful. It can range forward and backward. It can tie ideas together. It can create and invent. It also is very young, in terms of aliveness and evolution. Or, at least, linguistic based thinking is young. Aliveness is 3.7 billion years old. The ability to make sound is between 400 and 250 million years old. Ancestral Katydid fossils from 250 million years are the first fossils to definitively show evidence of having a sound-making apparatus.
Our windows of Sensing, Feeling and Imagery are all older than Thinking. They are also more diffuse, varied and not tied to logic. Thinking offers a simpler map or way of experiencing. It can reduce experience to cause and effect; to right and wrong; to this or that. Judging, comparing and contrasting are part of the realm of thinking.
Thinking is also very protective. It springs readily into action to move us onto what it deems as stable ground. It frequently moves us away from feelings, those messy emotions that are often painful. Of course, we feel better because we are no longer engaged with the feeling. We’ve created a gap, a movement away from the anger or sadness or whatever the direct feeling experience had been.
Sometimes, that is easy to see. For instance, often when someone has been denigrated as a child, told they were bad or bad at something, that they were no good, a failure, a problem, their thinking takes that thought-map as a protection. They do to themselves what was done to them as children. They dismiss their feelings. It’s only feeling. I let go of it. Or they think “I’m no good at this so I won’t even try…” etc.
The invitation we make to trainees is to get to explore their own natural thinking. We also suggest a loosening of the relationship. Instead of hearing thoughts as definitive, we invite you to hear them as suggestive. When thinking draws 2 things together for you, to hear it as a possibility, something to explore further in imagery.
When your thinking tends towards being judgmental and righteous, wonder about who judged you? Where did judgement first come into your life? Why is it so present in you? What is it protecting you from? What does your dismissal of another human being or of Zoom or of emotion/feeling or imagery protect you from experiencing in yourself?
When thinking offers a case and effect structure, wonder about it.
“I feel this way because I feel unseen”
“I’m angry because they are wasting my time”
“I don’t want to do this because he/she/they do not understand me”
Rather than hearing it as a conclusion, something closed and ended, hear it instead as an opening, an invitation to explore something in yourself. The experiencing you are having is the doorway to the journey.
Journey with the experience of being unseen, of being angry or what is the experience of wasting time, of being misunderstood.
Likewise, when thinking draws your attention to two ideas, even when it doesn’t posit them as cause and effect, wonder about that. I knew a woman (Anne) who found working with Video calls (FaceTime, Zoom, etc) difficult. She felt too exposed, too seen. She would have preferred to use an audio only means of communication. Anne was a very observant person, interested in her growing and trained in deep imagery approach. She was curious about her reaction and decided to journey with it. When we met to explore the feelings that had woken up, she also mentioned that she also found herself thinking a lot about her grandmother, her mother’s mother who she didn’t remember well.
In her journey, she was taken back into her relationship with her grandmother. Her mother’s mother had been a rather sharp person. She had very strong ideas about how a girl should be raised, how she should dress etc. Anne’s own mother had a limited relationship with her own mother and tended towards being a free spirit and raised Anne in a very easygoing way, even to the point of almost carelessness. But every summer, she would leave Anne with Anne’s grandparents for a few weeks. In the journey, Anne was brought back to some of the experiences she had at the time. Mostly her guide, a mouse, allowed her see how Little Anne felt, moving from the freedom her mother allowed her to the more tightly bound home and rules her grandmother offered. Particularly, it brought her to the memories of realizing as a little girl, that when she played in the back garden, when she thought she was alone, her grandmother watched her through an upstairs window.
All that ambivalent feeling of both not being really free and yet feeling someone did care enough to watch over her; of privacy vs no privacy; of being observed, of being seen too much, was behind the feelings that woke up when she was on a video call.
Here’s the interesting thing: her thinking was already making that association for her. It didn’t do so in words. It didn’t spell it out specifically. It didn’t posit a cause and effect. Instead, it allowed both experiences to exist near each other in Anne, as recurring thoughts and memories both about the audio calls and her childhood. Her journey made the connection explicit. It also allowed her to fully digest all that childhood feeling, to appreciate the complexity of the situation for Little Anne and to move beyond it.
Afterwards, Anne moved into being much more comfortable with working on video calls. She was no longer carrying in the feelings that belonged to her past.
When Thinking gifts you with busy thoughts, pay attention to them. When it draws two or more experiences together for you, pay attention to that. Don’t necessarily believe the way it expresses those connections. Thinking can over emphasize cause and effect. Don’t be taken in by the linguistic structure of a thought. Instead wonder at the association your Thinking has made, however it does so.
Be curious. Thank your thinking for drawing your attention to these things. Wonder about what is underneath the thoughts. Journey to allow your other ways of knowing, particularly imagery and feeling, to open up the experience you are having.
Our focus is always growing. If you can go nothing else, ask “How can I grow from this?”
Invite your thinking to be your ally in growing, not just in protecting you by solving whatever is happening through an explanation or understanding that moves you away from whatever the uncomfortable experiencing you are having is. Instead, allow Thinking embrace it’s own power as a participant in your growing; as a companion to your Feeling, Imagery and Sensing; as a harmonious contributor to the wholeness of your knowing.