What a thought from a certified thinker! Not to brag, but I [uh, was] graduated from Yale magna cum laude as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and then followed up with a Yale Ph.D. So, I’m supposed to regard cognition as the number-one way of solving any and all problems, right? Yet consider this statement from the recently deceased Vietnamese Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nath Hanh: “Do not try to find the solution with your thinking mind. Nonthinking is the secret of success. And that is why the time when we are not working, that time can be very productive, if we know how to focus on the moment.” Or recall this well-known piece of advice from Jesus: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34, KJV)...
So, true-confessions time. Right after receiving my bachelor’s degree in 1960, I came upon a spiritual training program, loosely in the Muslim Sufi tradition, from Indonesia. Called Subud, an acronym of the three Sanskrit terms SUshila (right living), BUdhi (one’s higher inner self), and Dharma (the way of surrender to God), it introduced me to a whole different approach to living and learning. In Western terminology, I can say that it strengthened my intuition into something like a moral and spiritual GPS and, through positive experiences, has helped me to know when to say yes or no to emerging situations. I am now well into my 61st year of following this spiritual practice and am accustomed to going to that place within myself for guidance rather than to my mind. Now mind you, I DO think where that seems the appropriate instrument. But I remember Einstein’s and Heisenberg’s warning that Newtonian physics works fine at terrestrial speeds, sizes, and distances, but that when one comes to the speeds, sizes, and distances of intergalactic space, for example, Newton’s laws no longer apply, and one must resort to so-called quantum physics. In short, for everyday issues, discursive thought works just fine. But when you come to big issues and decisions like what should my direction in life be or whom should I marry, forget about charts of pros and cons. Instead, listen to your gut.
My Indonesian spiritual guide, Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo (d. 1987), had a wonderful second wife named Siti Sumari (d. 1970), known to us Subud members as “Ibu,” mother. She would make a point of telling the Western members who hung around with her, “Don’t think!” In the Western world, where thinking is king, this was like telling a three-pack-a-day smoker, “Don’t smoke!” Yet even our Shakespeare has Hamlet explain his lack of resolution to do what he feels he should by these words from one of his most famous soliloquies: “And thus the native hue of resolution/Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,/And enterprises of great pith and moment/With this regard their currents turn awry, /And lose the name of action” (Hamlet, III, i, 85-89). So, as a long-time non-thinker, I’ll join Ibu and say, “Don’t think!”