Think lovely thoughts

Reading the blog yesterday of a childhood friend who grew up to be a rabbi, I came across a phrase I’ve heard before but had forgotten for a long time.

Thought experiment

I love this phrase.

In two words, it implies all that I believe about thinking.

That thoughts are ever-changeable.

That we can manipulate our own thoughts or the way others think about us.

That we have power over our thinking.

That we can be playful with our thoughts.

Make fun of them.

Laugh at them.

Shoo them away when they’re getting in the way.

Caress and nurture the ones that stir our hearts and bellies.

Abandon the ones that have stopped serving us.

Experiment with our thinking. Approach our thinking like we would scientific research — as an experience or an equation that is observable, malleable.

I believe in this method, and yet I often have a hard time employing it.

Like many scientists, I am a firm believer in what I know to be true.

In the facts of my life.

“He is …”

“She does…”

“I will always be…”

“It’s like this…”

“He’ll never…”

Those facts serve me. They allow me to be right about the world I live in. They allow me to make difficult decisions based on previously established and agreed upon evidence. They allow me to feel safe and secure in an existence that is often tenuous and unsure.

Therefore, it’s not so easy to approach those facts (my thoughts) as an experiment.

It means I have to give up being right: About the world, about people who’ve hurt me, or about situations I’ve long ago thought I forgot.

Not to mention — thought experiments are rarely controlled experiments. You’re not alone in a cozy lab coat in a quiet room with no other people, no additional stimulation. During your average thought experiment, it’s NOT just you, just your thoughts,  just listening carefully and watching and taking notes.

Yup. You are right there in the middle of it. All the time.

Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking.

And there’s noise. And hunger. And resentment. And perceived requests, demands, insults.

All that thinking and feeling leaves little room to experiment.

And, if you’re like me, you’re not just thinking, thinking, thinking. Feeling, feeling, feeling.

You’re thinking about the thinking. And judging the feeling.

Not very playful. Not very fun.

Not very experimental.

This is why — and I’m having a light bulb experience myself RIGHT NOW as I write this — I meditate. And this is why I sing. And why I pray my version of prayer; keep my version of Shabbat. And why, on occasion, I seek 20 minutes alone in the bathroom pretending to poop.

So I can have my very own thought experiment.

So I can allow myself the opportunity to observe, explore, and possibly, change my thinking.

Do you do this too?

Do you give yourself an opportunity to thought experiment?

And does it work?

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10 thoughts on “Think lovely thoughts

  1. Yes I do. Thinking, thinking thinking about sums it up for me, far more than grooming, hair brushing or any other of the activities followed by the new man about town. Now I’m thinking about your post. GHrrrr. OK, perhaps I’ll try some eating eating eating and see if that shuts my mind up.

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  2. When does that leave you room for you writing? 😉 Or is your writing a way of processing your thoughts, as it often is for me?

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  3. I consider my writing as a way of taking control of my thoughts. When I write a poem I can put emotions, that are so BIG in my head and do so much damage, into a poem fenced in and designed just for them. I know my writing can come off as dark at times…but the darker it is the lighter I find I am. Thanks for offering this prompt for my thought. I actually, stopped by to thank you for liking one of my poems…you are very kind. Best wishes!

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  4. Love this, Jen. Yes, I’ve been in the middle of a thought experiment for the past month or so. I’m playing with refocusing my attention, no matter where it is, on the thought of just being satisfied in that moment. VERY, VERY difficult, but very fulfilling and satisfying! 🙂 I think the hardest part is remembering to do so!

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  5. I had the best time playing with my thoughts yesterday. I was in the toy store and put on a mood ring. It said I was happy – and that felt true. So then I put all my thoughts on the man I love… And the ring turned the ring hot pink validating my romantic feelings… Then I switched my thoughts to things I was excited about and, whoa, it turned green! Gotta love the mood ring but more important was the great reminder that I can shift my mood myself in an instant just by shifting my thoughts.

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  6. This is definitely an experiment I have been trying…with differing degrees of success! I agree with you that writing helps to process the thoughts, but when I’m just independently thinkingthinkingthinking, with no outlet but to deal with myself, it would certainly help if I could control the direction a little better! 😉

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