I’ve read that on average we have somewhere around 70,000 thoughts each day. I did try to work this out, but it seemed too much like hard work. After all, how long does a thought last? I don’t have a standard thought size. “Chocolate.” That didn’t take even a second. “Chocolate.” Neither did that. “I wonder if there’s any in the kitchen cupboard?” That took longer, but I could probably still fit a few thousand of those in each hour, no problem.
So anyway, I started thinking about this, as I was walking home from my yoga class last week. I also remembered that apparently have around 70% of most people’s thoughts are what could be called negative, particularly thoughts about themselves.
I started paying attention to my thoughts, to see if I could work out how long they lasted. Instead something strange happened. Here’s roughly how a few of my thoughts went: I wonder how many of my thoughts are positive these days? It must be way more than 50% I’d think. I don’t like the colour of that woman’s coat. She shouldn’t be speaking to the kid that way. I’m getting a horrible feeling in my stomach just listening to her. Actually, supposing the horrible feeling in my stomach wasn’t because of how she was speaking to the kid, but because I was judging her? Hmm. Seems more likely. I wonder how often I think a feeling is because of something when really it’s because of something else?
A few years ago I read a novel in which the main character’s father was a bit fierce. If I remember it correctly he wasn’t always around, but when he was there mealtimes could be silent due to his dislike of the main character and her brother asking questions. Right now I can’t remember the name of the book or author but I remember the name of one chapter: The Extinguishment of the Question. (It’s also possible that’s not exactly it, so if anyone recognises the book from this description and knows its name and correct name of the chapter – do let me know!) Anyway, the main character and her brother were banned from asking questions.
It’s a good job I didn’t live in their house. I’ve been thinking lately about how beneficial questions have been in my life. It is fair to say they have changed my life completely.
Imagine a life without questions, a life in which you accepted everything you were told, and acted accordingly. Nazi Germany perhaps?
I am thankful for questions.
Children ask questions from the moment they can speak. Parents don’t always want to answer, but the questions keep coming. Children want to learn, to explore, to discover things. Generally children explore what they see on the outside, but they can also look inside and notice their own thoughts and behaviours. As an adult it surprised me to hear little children calmly observe their own feelings. It surprised me ecause I had forgotten that, forgotten it was possible. I’d grown so used to judging most of my emotions as bad, and myself as bad for having them.
So I am thankful for questions.
I’m not sure at what age we begin to extinguish questions and think we know how it is. Or how it should be. I got to that point, thought I knew how life should be. There was a while when I forgot to ask questions of myself. Life without questions isn’t a happy place to be.
It’s several years now since I began asking questions again. For a while those questions were along the lines of: Why is life so terrible? How can I be happy?
Those weren’t really the right questions for me to ask. Or maybe they were, since they led me onto other questions. Questions that I ask every day; questions that deepen my peace every time I ask them. It was the way these questions changed how I see the world that made me decide to write this blog, and because it has drifted a little from its origins, I thought it would be good to bring the questions to the thankful hop.
I use two processes that are both basically four questions. The first is the Work of Bryon Katie, and these questions are asked about any stressful thought you may have:
Is it true?
Do you absolutely know it’s true?
How do you react when you think that thought?
Who would you be without that thought?
The second process I use is the Sedona Method, and these questions are asked about any stressful feeling you might have. The following four questions are the Sedona Method at its most basic.
Could I allow or welcome that feeling?
Could I let it go?
Would I let it go?
Since asking these questions, I’ve come to see that mostly I know nothing for sure, and mostly my feelings aren’t what they seem. And since last week, when I began to wonder if it was my judgement of that woman that caused the horrible feeling in my stomach, I have been testing this theory out. What I’ve noticed is that any time I judge someone even just a little it hurts me physically. I feel it in my body. Lester Levenson, who developed the process that eventually became known as the Sedona Method, questioned many, many of his thoughts and assumptions after doctors had estimated he had months to live. One thing he concluded was that it was when he was being loving that he was happy. So he let go of his feelings of anger and resentment towards people and chose to love.
This is simple but not easy, and I slip up almost every day. But I am so thankful for the questions that show me the way.