The perks of a silent mind

May 22, 2020 — Dario Froio
The perks of a silent mind

"Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent".

What Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein meant with the closing proposition of his Tractatus, is that language can only describe a fraction of what makes the whole experience of the world, so, when we feel there's something more, something that goes beyond our capacity of verbal description, instead of trying to speculate with ever so complex structures of words, we should just give up and be silent.

This achievement by one of the greatest 20th century's western thinkers, is shared with the ancient eastern wisdom popularized in the 1960s by British philosopher Alan Watts, who once said: "a beautifully functioning mind doesn't get in its own way, it doesn't think itself".

We might be tricked into believing that if we’d stop thinking, it would be the end of our mind activity. Actually, there's much more to the mind than thinking. When we are able to stop for a while the constant chatter that goes on inside our heads, we make space for direct experience, unmediated through artifacts like thoughts and images.

There are no doubts that thinking is a wonderful ability, the one that allows us to reach the grand achievements of our species. But it is so only if we are able to also practice non-thinking.

Analytical thoughts belong to the world of symbols and are arranged by our mind in structures, that become patterns, that become habits. That's why a mind that is always absorbed in thoughts is actually just stuck in repeating patterns and cannot be open to the real world. And that's why creativity is seldom obtained by analytical thinking.

A mind that is always involved in thoughts tends to believe that all exists in the realm of consciousness, of the thinkable. But thoughts are only symbols, based on language, that work by abstraction and lack the full quality of the real world.

The practice of non conceptual experiences - like meditation, yoga, chanting, contemplating koans - suspends the analytical thinking and allows us to get back to the original mind, letting the world come to us as it is, whereas thoughts cause the familiar, chronic sensation of an I - or self - having experiences, dividing us from the world.

When we're stuck in the world of thoughts, we miss out on the abundance of real life and we are left with a constant unsatisfactory feeling. We end up pursuing symbols and abstractions, like success, that don't exist in the present moment.

When consciousness responds to the world without the filter of thoughts, we can reach unity with the universe and find ourselves in a state of effortless flow, which is the ultimate purpose of meditation.

There's no need to do anything complicated: just breathe, leave your mind alone, stop trying to make sense of the world and start enjoying it.

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