Confusion: the Door to Deeper Wisdom
I’ve been giving some thought to the role of confusion in our lives. Like other emotions and mental states that don’t feel productive, most of us would like to banish it from existence. But, if we look just a little closer, we might be able to see the silver lining. I woke from sleep a few nights ago with all these thoughts pouring from my barely conscious mind. So, because this has happened before, I grabbed the pad and pen that always sit by my bed and began to write. It was still dark out, but I have a pen that glows in the dark, so I didn’t have to turn on the lights. Somehow all that brightness has a way of erasing dreams.
What I heard in my sleep was that confusion is a place where we have greater access to wisdom. When we stop thinking habitual thoughts, it’s like we open a door. Thought actually blocks wisdom. When our brains can’t figure something out they go a little nuts. You might relate? After all, that’s what a brain is for… to figure things out. When it can’t, we sort of stall. If we don’t fight to get out of that stall, we can transition from one mode of knowing to another. From intellectual logic to deeper wisdom.
I also heard that wisdom isn’t just a more advanced and elevated thought form. Wisdom is a place of no thinking – no mind. For anyone who finds peace in meditating, you have undoubtedly experienced this. Every meditation advice I’ve ever heard encourages you to NOT think, but to let thoughts simply come and go like clouds passing by. It’s the non-thinking place that meditation aims for. In that non-thinking place, we connect with spirit.
From the time we first understood what thought was, we’ve been taught that thinking was the king of skills and education is supreme. What we forget is that education is derived from the Latin word educere which is the basis of the English word educe. To educate means to draw out – to bring forth. So, rather than an education system that tries to fill our students up, does this mean that we should instead be drawing forth wisdom from them? Well, let’s not go there right now. Suffice it to say that thinking has become accepted as the bright person’s way to the good life.
And thinking certainly does have its place. But, it’s not our only tool. It would be like a carpenter having only a hammer. That’s fine for some jobs, but not for everything. We’ve never been taught that we have any other faculties at our disposal than just thinking. Sometimes we need to put thought away and let non-thought educe the wisdom we already have within us.
We do this all the time, unthinkingly (pun totally intended!). When we daydream or our thoughts drift, we often return to a deeper sense of knowing by default. Like a bubble rising from the depths of the pond, wisdom surfaces in the moment of confusion to reveal an answer or insight that no amount of thinking could ever reach. Remember times when you tried really hard to recall something, but couldn’t? And then hours later or in the middle of the night, when you weren’t thinking of it at all, the memory resurfaced.
Like any unused muscle, learning how to not-think is going to take some time and practice to build to strength. Especially since when you find yourself not thinking, the first thing you do is think, “Hey, I’m not thinking!” Which is, of course, a thought! One way to develop your non-thought muscle is to experience the emotion of satisfaction without putting words to it. Look out at a beautiful sunset that just takes your breath away. Notice that it also, for just a moment, takes your words away too. That’s the moment of non-thought. It’s a feeling. A deep connection that no words could ever explain.
So, unlike your school teachers’ advice, I’d recommend that in the coming days you practice the art of non-thought. Notice when you do, but don’t comment on it… not even to yourself. Become more aware of the incessant dialog you have going on in your mind and stop feeding it more words. Are you a person who is compelled to verbalize every thought you have and every experience you’re in? Do you stand before that majestic sunset and say, “What a beautiful sunset!” even if no one else is there? This is the first place to start. Break your addiction to words. Just let yourself feel the sunset, not comment on it.
Notice this week when you’re feeling confused. Instead of struggling to find an answer to the confusion, stop and let it be. Know that in the fog of confusion, a path to a deeper knowing is opening up. Anticipate it and be expectant. Feel the freedom that not knowing allows you. Breathe and feel… don’t think. It’s at times like these that thinking will kill your inner wisdom. Welcome confusion. It’s where we let go of our little restrictive view of life. And it’s the only place where we can discover the truth beyond the circumstances.