Understanding Your Thoughts
Know what you don’t know
A man is but the product of his thoughts.
What he thinks, he becomes.
– Mahatma Gandhi
In searching for peace, it is incredibly important to know what you know … and more importantly, to know what you don’t know. What does that mean? To make headway in our spiritual journey, we need to be able to understand our thoughts and align them with our purpose. If our goal is to achieve peace for instance, then we need to take a look at what we understand about the process of achieving peace. So we need to both take a look at what we know already and what we know we don’t know. To make it one step more awkward, it’s crucial to realize that there are three different types of knowledge as shown below:
Understanding Your Thoughts
- Things we know we know.
- Things we know we don’t know.
- Things we don’t know we don’t know.
In organizing our thoughts, we can always group them into one of the preceding categories. I’m not recommending we go through each thought and categorize them one by one. Instead, I’m recommending that you allow yourself to focus on the things you know you don’t know in order speed up your process of gaining peace. In other words, the things you know that you know do not require attention at this time. The things you don’t know you don’t know cannot be addressed at this time. So, we are limited to learning those things we know we don’t know. Taking this approach will lead us to both reevaluate the things we thought we knew and teach us what it is that we don’t know we need to know. OK, enough of this brain teaser … let’s get down to business.
What We Don’t Know
Since there are infinite subjects for which we are lacking knowledge, we need to pick a narrow focus for our discussion. Since this is a book about achieving peace, this would be the most logical place to start. What is it that we really know about spirituality and achieving peace? Do you know with certainty that your religion’s stories are fact? Is it 100% guaranteed that the guru you saw on YouTube has all of the answers you need? Let’s look at even the tiniest detail of life: Do you know how a hive of bees functions? What about a single bee? Do you understand how it functions? Even on a purely physical level, we do not understand how it operates. How does its little body draw energy into its wings and then know how to fly? How does it know to gather pollen, to make honey, to build a hive? We could go on and on all day, but you get the picture. We know very little with absolute certainty … and that is good. Instead of chasing our tails trying to learn every detail of this or that, we should focus on what is important and allow those answers to drive our studies. If we become too focused on breaking life down into details we will forever miss the big picture.
If you are of a scientific background, you may think that you understand the way something works fairly well. For instance, in my high school biology class we dissected fetal pigs and memorized various veins, muscles, bones, etc. Does that mean I know how a pig functions? Not at all! You cannot fully learn how a biological system works by dissecting it into smaller and smaller pieces. For these pieces do not work independently of each other: they are all part of a larger system. This holds true in physics as well. Scientists are breaking down particles into smaller and smaller segments thinking they will eventually find the particle that makes everything work. However, each time they break down a particle into its smaller bits, they find out there are smaller bits still. This may go on indefinitely. In my opinion, the real benefit in scientice having broken down physical matter to such a tiny level is that many of the scientists studying at the quantum level are now starting to understand that it doesn’t matter how far you break down matter. Instead, they are shifting their thoughts from thinking that it was an advancement of our evolutionary biology that eventually led to consciousness to a theory which states that it is consciousness itself which creates this thing we call “matter.” This is what spiritual leaders have been saying all along and it’s an extremely important distinction.
How to Get the Answers
There is a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is what we learn by reading and breaking down life into its parts. This would be akin to dissecting the bee from the above example and thinking we will somehow have a better understanding of its nature. Wisdom is that information which seems to be inherent or is otherwise “streamed” into our consciousness as it is needed. This is more like understanding the bee’s role and making sure we don’t inadvertently do something to negatively affect its ability to prosper. If you are thinking, “Oh man, here we go with this mumbo jumbo,” then you need to be aware that the greatest thinkers, inventors, and wealth creators of all time were those who were able to embrace the following concept: You do not need to know everything before you take action. Instead, you need only learn to tame your thoughts so that you can learn to drawn in more wisdom. Check out these quotes from one of the most intelligent men to have ever walked the earth; Albert Einstein:
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
How to Proceed
In essence, your spiritual path will contain a number of thoughts, questions and knowledge. However, you must learn that while “thoughts are things” they are not always helpful. In other words, thoughts are just things. You need not get caught up on every thought that comes to your attention. Instead, learn to recognize each thought as it bubbles up into your consciousness and then simply be a witness to the thinking process. In time, you will learn to exert influence on the types of thoughts you generate, but for now it’s only important that you recognize each thought as it occurs. This is a great and powerful everyday practice. When you learn to be the observer of your thoughts, wisdom will have plenty room to rush in.