Sometimes, I don’t know what I’m thinking. Especially when engaged in doing household chores, cooking and such stuff that I try and get over with as fast as I can, I’m rarely focused on what’s going on the mind screen. Thoughts come and go but I am too busy with the job in hand that I can rarely recollect what they were.
Often, when I’m knitting and crocheting my ‘thought-nets’, I’m also not really focusing on thoughts either. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s not always easy to understand one’s own disposition. And the essence of issues that plague the mind - the deeper and untiring dialogue with self, is usually buried under the busyness of the day. If I want to look at myself think I do, but otherwise I watch something on nextflix, listen to a talk on YouTube or a book on Audible, to switch off from the superficial chatter of the daily rubble.
Sometimes, when the rant spills over, I can’t watch or listen to anything. My head is just screaming to be heard. If I can, I write in my journal or if it’s too chaotic to form sentences and if there too much emotion, I may speak to a friend. If I don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone, I babble into my phone and record the tirade. When I hear it back - the emotion, irritation and anxiety of what’s been said -that is if I can bear to go over the whole thing again, I do get a clearer picture of the problem at hand. Of why I’m feeling stressed. If I can’t hear that stuff again, I’m relieved that my mind is lighter for off-loading it. Usually it’s stuff that’s deemed unnecessary, pertaining to a whole host of mundane things that are detracting from the essence of what some part of me wants to think about, but the mind is exhausted with itself and cannot muster the discipline to do so. Sometimes feelings overwhelm and they cannot easily be put into thoughts and words – at best disjointed ones.
I’m a reflective sort of person, so I usually begin my day, writing in my journal. I start with reading the previous entry to get a sense of where I left off, because unresolved things have a habit of playing like elevator music, that’s heard but not really listened to - not enough to recognise the melody, not unless it’s a familiar tune, when we do sing along effortlessly – if we like the tune. In trying to get through the processes of living, which requires focus on the mundane, on driving, cooking, folding clothes and other tasks - the screaming is actually this underlying background dialogue that’s unfinished and unresolved, which is demanding it’s time and share of attention.
When I start this morning dialogue with myself, if I’m in a self-reflective mood, I can write for hours. If not, I leave off where I cannot go farther with the thought. Either I’ve said enough or I just can’t quite get to any point of understanding. Often I have to leave things for the thoughts to emerge. Where a movie, a talk or something else - even the rhythm of knitting sheds light.
And, more often than not, it is conversations or interactions with someone else that really helps shed light on what’s going on in one’s own mind - a reflective surface kind of mirroring dialogue. If it doesn’t automatically occur to me, I put my attention on what about the conversation struck me, moved me, or the advice I may have given . And it’s almost always what I need to think about for myself, albeit in a varying degree or context. This then requires deeper reflection which takes me into those areas that eons of exploration leave me tired and unfulfilled, but ideas that I need to resolve to whatever extent possible, because unless I do so I’ll never be free of the distressing inner rant.
A net by its very nature is something to catch things. Fishermen use it to catch fish, which is food for the human body. In Goa, many outdoor restaurants and cafes suspend nets under over-arching trees to catch the falling leaves so that the foliage debris doesn’t hamper happily chomping guests.
So what does a ‘thought-net’ do? What does it catch, or prevent from imposing or entering a protected space or field of vision?
If I put the larger and more cumbersome nets that I’ve created over my head, as an extension of my mind - an evocation of what’s going on inside my head, then it’s a kind of trap. A net that binds me within its threads. And not unlike repeating thoughts which bind us to people, situations and circumstance. But, the irony is that ranting and venting - going over the same ideas - creating this ‘thought-net’, is also a way out of this bind.
When we vent or rant - go on and on about a situation, most of us want sympathy because we see ourselves as victims of an unfair circumstance or relationship. Or we don’t have the courage to do or say what we really feel. Or perhaps we don’t have clarity and have conflicting feelings that need detailed analysis. In some sense, the situation challenges us.
I’ve often noticed this about myself that, if I’m on top of things, or matters are going well, there is no need for a dialogue. It’s only when I’m not able to get a grip on what’s going on that, the why’s and why-not’s circle around endlessly. And depending upon the intensity of the situation and emotion it evokes, I may lie awake at night, wondering why I can’t sleep despite vigorous exercise and feeling pretty darn sleepy too.
I was speaking quite recently to a friend, about the paradoxical beauty of our thoughts. This had occurred to me when I was looking at an embroidery pattern I had created within a series of ‘thought-nets’. The resultant ‘thought-net’ was visually attractive and led me rethink the very idea of ‘thoughts’ as being a burden. Of our ‘thought-patterns’ being something destructive. Such that new age philosophy underlines, telling us to get let go the past, to change our thoughts etc. Enticing us with absolutely miraculously solutions that almost never work quite as effectively and definitely not in the long term. Not unless we are on the brink of taking that leap by having done plenty of the work already.
Our thinking patterns, the template of our moral, ideas and ideals arise from societal norms, familial dictates, cultural morals and more that have evolved through individual, social, cultural, national and world events. All of which have collectively framed the psyche of our elders and educators, their ancestors and theirs: going as far back as time itself. Therefore, inherited ‘patterns’ are really not something we can get past easily enough. And, they are the real reason that the thread of ‘thought-nets’ catch us, binding the imaginative mind, curtailing the freedom of our spirits - keeping us from transforming our human destinies and exploring the potential of our human selves, even going beyond this.
My friend’s response was that negative thinking cannot be seen as beautiful, despite what the ‘thought-net’ I was showing her was proof of. She appreciated the artwork, but couldn’t correlate it with what she herself experienced when her mind is gripped with dismaying thoughts - negative thoughts in common parlance.
At one level, I agree with her. When you’re going on and on in a non-empowering way it’s enervating - for both you and the person listening to you. Fact is that negative gives power, when it’s changed through its charge into positive, and the two together is what generates energy. Negative thinking disembowels, but it is also creating an unacknowledged impetus within us, to rise above. If we were happy in that state, there really wouldn’t be any need to rant, complain or drag us and everyone around us, down the dingy steps of despair. We do that because we want a way out, but can’t see it. But lightening the load, getting consolation from friends, seeing that we are not alone in these things, lends confidence to delve within. That’s what we really want. Not necessarily advice, but solace. Not solutions that someone else gives but a means to reduce the thought load and find a way to the subtler voice of our own wise being. At times advice is sought, solution providers can be useful too but essentially the two charges of negative leading to positive - self-affirmation and feeling good, is what brings forth the energy. And in an instant the binds of the ‘thought-net’ are torn asunder. And we taste that enviable taste of freedom. Of being unstoppable.
I think that makes the process quite beautiful, don’t you?