Saturday, June 23, 2012

Nourishing Thinking (Right Thinking)

"Thinking is the speech of our mind."  Nourishing Thinking (Right Thinking) stems from Nourishing Understanding and in turn supports our maintenance of Nourishing Understanding.  Much of our thinking is unnecessary, often tied to reliving events of the past or experiencing anxiety about the future.  Much of our thinking is worthless chatter, like a running monologue of commentary and connections that keep us from being in the moment.  Practicing Nourishing Mindfulness can help us to gain control over the run-away train that is our mind. 

According to TNH, thinking comes in two parts.  The first part, vitarka, is the initial thought.  This is followed by the vichara, or developing thought.  So the vitarka may be, "I have a job interview tomorrow," and then the vichara would be all the thoughts about what you will wear, what you plan to say, how prepared you are, and so on.  I find this distinction helpful, as it may lead to being able to recognize in meditation that even when I can't control the vitarka, I can gain some control and reign in the subsequent vichara.

There are four practices related to Nourishing Thinking (again, according to TNH).
  1. Are You Sure?  From a previous discussion about Nourishing Understanding, this first practice of asking yourself "Are You Sure" when considering something you believe to be true helps us to consciously seek out limiting perspectives and assumptions.
  2. What Am I Doing?  The use of this question brings you back into the present, fully focused on your current location, physical body, and activity.  It is a wonderful tool for bringing us back to mindfulness as our attention wanders.  *I LOVE this idea!!  What a wonderful practice!  Now I want to put little sticky notes all over the house that say, "What are you doing?" 
  3. Hello, Habit Energy  This practice is about recognizing the habits we fall into, like being a workaholic, falling into depression, sliding into negative thinking about ourselves, or any other habitual energy spaces.  TNH recommends becoming friends with our habits, noticing that they are there when they pop up and saying, "Hello!  I see you."  Instead of rejecting and thus feeling guilty for falling into our habits, we are taught to simply cultivate an ability to see the patterns that we have.  By doing so, the habits will lose much of their power, as it is generally rooted in a lack of mindfulness.  This is brilliant and a complete mirror of the way that Intuitive Eating approaches healing an eating disorder, where we learn to recognize our eating patterns without judgement to learn and discover the patterns we have so we can adjust them towards more healthy choices.
  4. Bodhichitta or "Mind of Love"  The Bodhichitta is the deep desire to understand ourselves and therefore bring peace and love to ourselves and others.  It stands as the motivating force of mindful living and helps us to ensure that everything we do supports the liberation of all beings.  Staying connected to the Bodhichitta means that Nourishing Thinking supports Nourishing Effort (Right Diligence).
 The Buddha offers two suggestions to help with the practice of Nourishing Thinking.  First he says that if you are dealing with non-nourishing thoughts, replace them with nourishing ones.  This is akin to the use of daily affirmations that invoke a different view from the one you currently hold.  For instance, if you are someone who regularly thinks of yourself as a failure, you might say to yourself "I am a successful person." several times a day to help balance out the negative thoughts.

The second suggestion is to live in a community that also engages in these practices, for it is easier to maintain Nourishing Thought and Nourishing Understanding in a living space where others do the same.  While it may be difficult for many of us to live in a Buddhist community, there is something to be said for choosing your companionship well.  As a dedicated supporter of Interfaith practices, I believe that it is not only Buddhists who can be good company for someone who is seeking to cultivate Nourishing Thinking and Understanding.  People who take the time to stay in the moment and are slow to judge, regardless of their faith tradition or lack thereof, would be wise companions.

*This post is a piece of a larger discussion that begins with the post: Lessons from the Heart of the Buddha's Teachings.*