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.


Jodi said...

Just thanking you once again for this amazing opportunity. It is wonderful to be reminded that nothing happens "by chance". We are all so blessed in each of our paths. I am so grateful to have found your teachings again. Thank you!

Cathy said...

In the comments following the previous entry, there was mention by various people of how they were impacted by Lesson 17 or Lesson 20 or whatever. Then in your newest entry you mention that it takes most participants a while to truly appreciate the value of the course. Well, I recently received Lesson 5 to begin my third month of the course, and I am already amazed at the information contained and most of all the change in my attitude that has come about simply through rereading the first five lessons. What this all tells me is that I have a lot to look forward to in the months ahead, and I am very grateful for that. Thank you for creating this wondrous course for us.

Bindu said...

Our little group met this morning and I wanted to bring you up to date on our doings. In a word, fabulous. It seems impossible that seven months have gone by, and yet it seems that we have always been meeting, taking the lessons and best of all applying them to our lives.

We are now nine people having added two new students since we first began. Here is our format. We begin with a chat over tea or coffee, then reassemble for a short reading, usually a scriptural passage from the lessons. Following a brief meditation each person then takes a turn talking about their experiences with their current lesson. The stated goal is to share ways in which they have used the principles in their lives. Then we throw out questions for discussions around particular phrases and/or suggested actions. (Such as step into your lightheartedness.)

I am delighted and extremely grateful for my own experience, and I am extremely delighted for the joyful gratitude expressed by the others. It is clear that they are reading, rereading, and applying the lessons. As two different women recently said, "I have been studying and meditating for years but nothing has ever worked like this."

It is interesting to observe the energy build during our time together. By the time they leave our faces are alive and our hearts are open. It is a great gift. As a group we send our thanks and gratitude for the miracle of the lessons.

Jackson said...

For the most part my wife and I have a very good relationship, but sometimes she relates to me very disrespectfully and criticizes me for things that seem to me like her own projections and have nothing to do with me. My question is how do I know whether she is deluded and sees things about me that are her own imagination and actually have nothing to do with me, or whether I am deluded to the point that I can’t see the truth of what she says?

D. R. Butler said...

What a classic relationship question. Probably everyone who reads it is nodding in agreement as they read, relating totally to your question.

It is important to first understand that it does not matter if your wife speaks the truth about you or not. Ultimately, of course, you might need to understand this, but that’s not where you start off. You start off by understanding why you are seeing her as you are, and what is being reflected back to you that you need to understand about yourself.

We each experience the consequences of our own actions and attitude, and our own ways of seeing and understanding things. If you see your wife as “disrespectful and critical,” it is important that you understand what it is about yourself that causes you to see this particular reflection. In other words, the important thing is not to understand your wife’s projections onto you, but to understand your own projections onto her.

Relate to her with love and respect, with lightheartedness, and try not to take her too seriously when she seems to be the ways you have the most trouble with. Don’t come back at her when you feel unjustly blamed or attacked. Don’t get defensive. Simply stay centered in your own harmonious state. Of course it will be challenging, but that is still where you have to start if you truly wish to change anything.

If you can do this, and remain steady within yourself, and not be pulled into reacting to whatever she is or isn’t experiencing, or how she does or doesn’t see you, things cannot remain as they presently appear to be. You will see that your relationship always reflects your own attitude and your own vision. The way the other person affects you is not up to them; it is up to you.

We are the only creator of the circumstances of our personal life, even though there is no way we will ever understand with the conscious mind how we got into whatever situation we currently find ourselves in. The ways of karma are very complex.

Regarding your wife, see and relate to her in the ways you would like for her to see and relate to you. Ultimately we will understand how everything in our own life originates from within our own vision. How we see something is the cause of what we see. This especially applies to relationships of any nature.

Marta said...

In a previous entry you explain that ‘Full forgiveness for everyone and everything must exist before we enjoy the sweetness of the experience of universal Being.’ How do I know that I have fully forgiven? Sometimes “I think” I did forgive someone, but then when I see that person I do not feel totally at ease. Would you please explain further what forgiveness is and how to really forgive?

D. R. Butler said...

‘Full forgiveness for everyone and everything must exist before we enjoy the sweetness of the experience of universal Being.’

This is necessary because ultimately we are all one; there is only one Self, one Consciousness, which we all share simultaneously.

If we take offense regarding something, or object to something, we are setting up a separation between ourselves and that which we find offensive or objectionable. Then we lose touch with the experience of oneness and the perfection of all things.

Often we find it hard to forgive when we feel someone has unjustly hurt us or taken advantage of us, or of our family or friend--whatever the situation is.

Eventually we need to understand that a person hurts another, or becomes offensive or objectionable, out of ignorance, and because of his own tendencies (samskaras) and conditioned ego.

Ultimately we must replace our lack of forgiveness with compassion, and with the understanding that even what is offensive or objectionable is still part of the play of the one Consciousness we all share.

Even if you have forgiven a person, you still might not feel totally at ease in his or her presence. It is okay. There are all kinds of ways we will feel, and the differences between them are not as great as we think. If we accept all feelings as also being part of the divine play, we stop feeling guilty or lacking somehow when we feel certain feelings.

Liberation is not simply feeling good all the time. Liberation is being in harmony with however we feel in the moment.

rico said...

I find myself re-reading the answers in the comment section (particularly the last 2 answers). They are as powerful as anything in the lessons.

D. R. Butler said...

Someone else recently wrote and said, "I've read the blog entries for a while, but I've only recently discovered the wealth of wisdom in the question and answer exchanges in the comments."

From my point of view, the lessons of the course, the blog entries, and the comments following the entries are all equally a part of the course. They all go together in learning to live in the Truth of the present moment.

Anyway I'm happy you've enjoyed the last two exchanges. Perhaps you'll appreciate the next one as well.

Steve said...

I was struck by a statement in Lesson 17 that ended with "...we simply rest in our own inner contentment." Tonight's reading of that paragraph, and especially that line, was followed by an awareness of a tension that
I carry, rarely noticed, of the "need" to keep things together, such as the
details of life. What a challenge, to just let it all go and rest in
contentment! Is that what you're saying? Is this possible? I really don't have to keep all these balls up in the air?

Of course, the answers to these questions arose as I asked them, but for some reason I'm having difficulty trusting them. I hope you will talk more about faith and trust as we progress.

D. R. Butler said...

There's a verse in the "Tao Te Ching" that basically says that contentment is the highest goal. Once we experience simple contentment, we've attained the pinnacle of human existence.

We don't "keep things together" nearly as much as we think we do. Life primarily just happens. I recently read something my youngest son, who is currently in college, had once written: "It's amazing how once you're born everything else just falls into place." This is very true.

One of the great secrets of life is that we can live in contentment regardless of current circumstances or situations, which are constantly changing, or what other people do or say, which is so temporary. It is a great freedom to reach the point where we rest in contentment no matter what happens.

Most of us can relax much more than we realize. This is something that is gradually understood more fully as we progress through the lessons and become more clear about how things work. And as we progress, you will be amazed at how much more you intuitively understand what faith and trust truly are. For most of us they are only ideas. It is a great thing when they become our actual experience.

Relax, be content, and know that everything happens for the best.

Daniel said...

Something had me start reading the lessons again. Perhaps it was the realization for the last few weeks or so, that this all is in fact a dream. Not simply like a high-minded concept, but to be in each moment that it is our creation, and, as you said many years ago, "We can be and must be the Dreamer of the dream, and not merely the dreamed."

This also reminded me of a line from a poem by Edgar Allen Poe: "Everything that we see, or seem, Is but a dream within a dream."

I have been amazed that my recent experience of the lessons has been so powerful. I used to think, he just knows what to say, but doesn't feel it. I now think that I was the one who knew about all of it, but didn't feel it. And I always doubted the proposition that we could choose the dream. Now I am beginning to understand that we can do that in a real and practical way, each and every moment. And it only took 30 years of the "course" to finally get it. I actually read the lessons in a totally different way, hear a different voice in my head when I do so, and don't picture anyone in particular writing them. It is more impersonal, in a powerful way.

Once again, thank you for the lessons, and the unique contribution that you have been to all of us.

Much love,

Rostov, Russia

Joan said...

My favorite quote from Lesson 18 is, "Don't give into the egotistical skepticism that taints our knowledge of the miraculous."
Thanks for this great lesson that I have read so often. Namaste.

Susan S. said...

First, just let me say how much I am really enjoying the lessons. I'm now on Lesson 8 and each one touches my life in a different way.

That being seems that lately, as I have tried to monitor my thoughts more and be a more conscious human being, I'm more reactive, judgemental, etc. than ever before. It's to the point that I'm finding it very uncomfortable. As I told my husband...maybe we should just go live in a cave so I don't have to deal with anyone.

I know what my good ol' Baptist friends would say....the closer you try to be to God, the more the devil attacks you. However, that doesn't seem to tell me how to be more conscious. Is this just my ego rebellling?? How do I get thru this?

Any words of wisdom are appreciated.

D. R. Butler said...

This is a common occurrence, and this is why: For so many years we are so unconscious, so mechanical, so predictable, so unaware of what we are doing or how we are relating to another, and then when we begin to work on ourselves in a spiritual way, and our ego gets a little smaller, we begin to notice these things for the first time. So of course our first reaction is, "Oh no, I'm getting much worse."

Sometimes the traits and tendencies we wish to be free from appear worse as we get freer simply because they are small enough to see for the first time. Before that they were so huge we couldn't even glimpse them, couldn't imagine that we could ever be such a way.

One of the most freeing feelings in the world is, "Oh, no, I am that way aren't I?" We see something about ourselves that is embarrassing or humiliating to admit. Then, once we see it that way and go through that feeling, we are free from it. At least, we are heading in the right direction.

Everything is not as it appears to be. Through the course we learn how to use everything for our own advantage. There is nothing that comes up in anyone's life that can't be used for spiritual growth. I know that is a double-negative, but if you understand it, it will be a positive.

Susan said...

Tomorrow I'll get my new lesson but I think that I could spend this lifetime on the contents of lesson 17.

Putting the lessons to practical use has resulted in many great changes. For me remembering to describe people and my life in a positive way all the time has made life so much easier and much more enjoyable.

I have always thought of myself as a pretty positive person but then this lesson revealed to me that I was really only being positive in public while at home I would let my moods spill over onto anyone present. It wasn't until I read "We really need to watch ourselves a bit more closely, and many of us need to put a tighter leash on ourselves and moderate our behavior a bit, especially the ways we relate to others." that it struck me. I NEED A LEASH! Well, once one is aware that all one has to do is use a little discipline with some added awareness and presto chango I can be positive at home too. I thank you and my family thanks you.

The part that I am still struggling with is how I relate to myself often. I'm less kind and less positive in my internal dialog when that part of me that I call the "Judge" gets on a roll. Any hints about how to develop internal compassion?

Thank you with all my heart.

D. R. Butler said...

One of my greatest lessons I learned from my own teacher was the simple phrase, "Love yourself." I remember once, around 35 years ago, I put up a sign on my wall that simply said, "Love yourself." It was a great daily reminder.

At some point in the lessons we'll learn about the 3 malas, or original taints that prevent us from already knowing and experiencing the Truth of our own inner Self. The primary one is the anava mala, which is basically the sense of unworthiness, of not being enough.

The reminder, "Love yourself," is a great help to offset that basic, fundamental sense of unworthiness that we are born with in this world with. It is part of the human condition. The anava mala is the closest thing to an actual "original sin."

Our "original sin" is thinking lowly of ourselves, being critical of ourselves, and generally feeling unworthy. We do not outgrow this, and it does not fall away on its own accord. We have to consciously practice thinking well of ourselves, respecting ourselves, and loving ourselves. This is the highest discipline. The entire Course of Training is based on these principles.

This does not happen automatically, or simply by deciding to do so. We have to do the work, or actually apply the principles in real life, in order for the transformation to occur. We are currently, thanks to grace, engaged in that process.

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