Friday, July 10, 2009

The Difference between Thinking and Knowing

A question came in this month asking the difference between thinking and knowing, and we’ll get to it in a moment. It is a great question, as many of us “think” that we “know.” It would be better to “know” that we are only “thinking.”

One principle is very simple even though it is also extremely profound. It is that we live in our thoughts. We live in our thoughts, and we think that our thoughts are true. There is a space between thoughts that is formless and eternal, that is so changeless that it will be the same a million years from now, while thoughts arise and subside as quickly as waves on the surface of the ocean.

What is often not understood or appreciated is that habitual thoughts are creative. If we think about the most horrible situations, we will without any doubt experience horrible situations in our personal life. If we think about how pleasant and enjoyable everything is, we will experience a pleasant and enjoyable life. Our attitude determines our experience. We can prove the truth of this simply by objectively observing.

We can see how things actually work, but first we must awaken and develop a more refined vision than what we are ordinarily satisfied with.

No matter how far we might have progressed spiritually, or even if we consider ourselves an absolute beginner, the truth remains that we live in our thoughts. We cannot get out of this, and it cannot be otherwise. Therefore it is very important to take responsibility for each thought in each moment, for our habitual and predominant thoughts will have very real consequences in our life corresponding to the nature of the thoughts. This is true for each individual in this world, whether one ever consciously realizes it or not.

Now we will get to our questions, both of which originally appeared as comments following the previous entry. The answers have been somewhat expanded since they first appeared.

Sally: My son asked me a question today: What is the difference between thinking and knowing? As I tried to discuss it, I realized that it wasn't so easy for me to explain.

D. R. Butler: Thinking is mental activity, or mind in motion. It usually involves something regarding the past or the future. Generally speaking, thought is very self-absorbed: "What should I do today? Shall I go to the gym or work on my art project?" or, "The more I think about what he said to me last week, the angrier I get."

Thoughts, in general, don't have anything to do with the Truth of the present moment. They are simply meanderings of the mind, verbal descriptions of egotistical melodramas. A thought is merely what we are thinking. Most of us, however, are very fascinated, even infatuated, with what we are thinking. Generally, thoughts take us out of our awareness of the present moment, and at their worst they stir up negative emotions, which in turn bring up the most unpleasant aspects of our personality.

Knowing, on the other hand, doesn't actually require thought. For example, someone asks, "What is your name?" and immediately you know your name. You don't have to think about it, remember it, or conjure it up. Your name simply arises in your awareness because it is something you already know. You have a firm conviction regarding it. There is no doubt.

Another example is how we know that we can walk across the ground or the sidewalk and we know that it will support us. We don’t think, “Will my next step land safely? Will the ground below me support me if I move from here?” We don’t have such thoughts. We know that we will be supported. There is no doubt. Thoughts are the origin of doubt.

Knowing is beyond creative thought. What we know is already real for us. Truly knowing is far beyond merely thinking.

Before we can tap into true knowing, we first need to move into that space between any two thoughts. When we are in that space, we have momentarily transcended the mind, and “knowing” arises intuitively, without any necessity for thought.

The highest aspect of "knowing" is the firm conviction that one's true and eternal nature is the inner Self, or pure Consciousness. "Thinking" that we are the Self, or pure Consciousness, is very mediocre compared to knowing that we are the inner Self, that our true Identity is pure Consciousness. In the Shiva Sutras an aphorism says: Knowledge of the Self is a firm conviction.

Truly, our primary purpose for being here, is to know our true nature--which is ultimately the changeless and eternal inner Self of all.

Ari: What is the best way to get others to appreciate the worth of the course and to awaken their interest in taking it for themselves?

Just this past month I've had three people ask for an introduction to the course. It is so exciting to have people I can talk about the principles with.

D. R. Butler: The best way to interest someone in the lessons is to tell them exactly how taking the course benefits you and your life. What does it do for you that might not be present or available otherwise? After all, if there are no actual benefits, there is no reason to take it. The lessons are certainly nothing to “believe in,” as there is no dogma. The course presents a way of life, based on living in the Truth of the present moment.

As far as appreciating the worth of the course, however, it takes even the most sincere participants of the course a while to truly appreciate its value, even though they might immediately experience benefits and enthusiasm regarding it. It is challenging to appreciate the full value of reading the lessons as a practice until you experience it for yourself. Even in your enthusiasm to interest others in the course, in a year from now your own appreciation of the course will be so much greater than it is now. That is the best part.

Regarding an introduction to the course, the best introduction is the very first entry on the blog, posted almost exactly a year ago in July of 2008 under the title "Experiencing the Truth of Being," and now simply titled "Introduction." Anyone who wishes to get an idea of what the course is about should read that entry. It will be obvious from the reading whether the course is suitable for a person or not. For some people the words and ideas will resonate completely, and for others not at all.

In fact, I invite all current participants of the course, no matter what lesson you are on, and all readers of this blog, no matter how long you have been reading it—and especially if this is your first time to check it out—to go back and reread that first entry posted in July 2008. Many people will see it with an entirely different perspective now than they did the first time they read it. Try it, just to see how it feels now, and to see if your understanding of those particular words and ideas has grown and deepened since your first reading.

As you know, we do not advertise, we are rather low-key, and we realize that only a certain kind of person will take the course. Therefore we depend entirely on word-of-mouth to attract new participants. We are certain that the lessons will benefit those attracted to them enough that they will want to tell other people about the value of taking the course for themselves. The people who sign up for Lessons 1 & 2 each month request the lessons because someone shared with them how valuable and effective they were in his or her own life. Coming across the course is not something that just happens haphazardly.

Neither does beginning the course for oneself happen by chance or coincidence. Someone is ready for the process that happens through reading the lessons—and for the study and practice of the ancient principles of Truth as applied in today's world—and then they naturally hear about the course from someone who takes it. It is a mysterious process, and yet it has happened for a long time now for many people.

If you are reading this blog, it is most likely because someone at some point told you about it and suggested you check it out, and perhaps through reading it over a period of time you have discovered that something about it actually works in your life, and so you come back to it. Reading this is not the kind of thing that happens by accident.

Anyway, thanks to all of you who do make the time and effort to read this, and to share this inner communication together. It is very fulfilling to me that you choose to meet in this space.

Added July 23: Since I can edit the entry, I'd like to mention that there is already a very strong question and answer session in the comments following this entry. The best way to read the comments is to click on the title of the entry at the top, and then all the comments will appear below in the same size type as the entry itself. Someone recently wrote that he'd "only recently discovered the wealth of wisdom hidden in the comments" following each entry of the blog. Of course, nothing is hidden from one who sees.