Thinking implies the entrance of an idea into one’s mind with or without deliberate consideration or reflection. Example: I just thought of a good joke.Thinking as an activity happens consciously or unconsciously.
Thought is the act of thinking or the outcome of mental activity.It is the thoughts we think that give us a sense of existence and awareness of the world around us.
‘I think therefore I am’ – Rene Descartes
Let us further analyze as to what are these things called thoughts.
Thoughts have their origin in memory. We can only think of that of which we have a memory, which means all those things that we have been exposed to in the past, whether consciously or unconsciously.
It is a known fact that our brain records every single detail of our day to day experiences and environment to which we are exposed, even if we are not giving conscious attention to it. These recordings are stored in the brain as memory.
Although we are not aware of every detail recorded, they are brought to our conscious awareness in the form of thoughts, when an association takes place between the current situation and the memory of similar situations faced earlier.
At the conscious level thoughts are fundamentally mere words. These words link up with each other to form sentences. The meaning these sentences or words impart depends on our understanding of the language in which we think, the context in which these words and sentences appear, our habitual way of labeling events experienced by our sensory system, cultural background, our beliefs and conditioning since childhood, to mention a few.
Thoughts attract more thoughts of the same kind. It is said that if we contemplate and / or ponder on a particular thought for 15 – 20 seconds, we begin to attract a train of thoughts having the same essence. This long chain of similar thoughts begins to form a pattern that influences our action and behavior.
All action results from thought, so it is thoughts that matter – Sai Baba
Thoughts are very closely linked to feelings and emotions. Many of our thoughts, especially those with reference to our likes and dislikes, give rise to pleasant and unpleasant feelings / emotions respectively. The combined effect of our thoughts and emotions propel us into the action or avoidance mode, as the case may be.
When we direct our thoughts properly, we can control our emotions – W.Clement Stone
At the subconscious or the unconscious level thoughts are mere pictures. Pictures are the first things registered in our memory as we grow and become aware of our surroundings. We get introduced to words and begin to form association between the words and the respective pictures. We label these visuals with words. As we learn to form sentences and become more adept at communication in a particular language, these pictures / visuals begin to run like a film below our conscious awareness and play a very important role in what we say or do.
At all times and especially in times of stress or when planning for the future, we first think in the visual mode. Subsequently, we label these pictures with words that eventually appear as thoughts at the conscious level propelling us to action.
However, not all words can be visualized and the meaning of such words is derived from the sound of the word. The sound of the word translates into appropriate action based on previous conditioning. Let us understand this better through the following illustration
A child was climbing up a tree, when he suddenly slipped and started to fall. Luckily for him he caught hold of a branch and held on to it, while at the same time crying out to his mother, standing nearby, for help.
On hearing the cries for help, his mother looked up to find her son hanging precariously on the branch of the tree and terrified, yelled out to him, “Do not let go of the branch”.
A similar incident took place in another part of the world, where the mother commanded, “Hold on firmly to the branch”.
The end result in each incident was different.
In the first incident, the child fell down before he could be rescued. In the plea of the mother, “Do not let go of the branch”, the child could automatically visualize “let go of the branch” that immediately translated into a thought for action even before he could register the words “do not” as these words do not have a visual representation. The instantaneous response was the boy letting go of the branch and falling down.
In the other incident, the command, “Hold on firmly to the branch”, translated itself completely into a visual picture where the boy saw himself holding on firmly to the branch, resulting in an appropriate thought and action with no ambiguity. The boy held on tightly to the branch till he was rescued by a passerby.
We generally think in pictures. In the wakeful state the pictures / visuals we see become thoughts and in the dream state thoughts become pictures / visuals.
Before we sign off, let us ponder on these quotes that highlight the importance of thoughts in our lives.
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world -Buddha
We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is filled with pure and happy thoughts, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves – Buddha