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The Tinkered Mind
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September 9th, 2020
The question has been posed before: can you predict your next thought? No, of course not, because to predict that thought is to actually have it. Any attempt is a self-fulfilling paradox that simultaneously answers the question and discounts the answer as a valid prediction.
While this is an interesting question which poses an interesting exercise within the debate surrounding free will, it is perhaps not a terribly productive question. Its exploration is merely fascinating, it does not really unlock nor hint at the expansion of our agency or some good we might be able to develop or acquire. But related questions around this one-way street of thought can yield areas of exploration that aren’t just fascinating, but productive.
Instead of drawing concern to the direction of thought, as with trying to figure out where a train of thought is going to go, we can instead wonder about the speed of thought. Does thought have a flow that is unstoppable, or does it drip like a leaky faucet?
Consider the speed of thought in two different situations: When you are bored, and again when you feel inspired while being highly productive.
In the first thought can be like a slow experience, like watching honey slowly ooze toward the bottom of the bottle.
Whereas in the second, thought is like a machine gun firing bullets of gold. Every thought feels relevant and perfectly on time and just on the heels of the last with a new one on its tail.
Then of course we can have the same rapid-fire experience in a far less enjoyable way: when that inner voice is inspired to berate our performance and who we find ourselves to be. The deluge of negativity can be overwhelming, and we yearn for the thought to stop, for the flow to ratchet down to nothing if only to have some rest from ourselves.
While direction of thought is a different topic requiring it’s own set of kid-gloves, the speed or flow of thought is something that we can develop a control over, given some practice. This is perhaps one of the aims within mindfulness meditation: to be able to notice thoughts in such a way that slows down the whole process, and with practice, it can seem as though the mind is brought to a stand still when compared to the frenetic mental experience of everyday life.
Flow of thought is something that can be toggled, with practice and training. And usually this means pumping the brakes and slowing down.
But perhaps even more interesting is the question of how we can ramp up our thinking, and rev it in good directions?