The Key to Wise Thought

The Key to Wise Thought

The point of mindfulness is not to get rid of thought but to learn to see thought skillfully. The Buddhist tradition trains the thinking mind and intellect to think clearly and well. We need to plan, think, organize, imagine, and create. Considered thoughts are a great gift. Our thoughts can set a direction, bring us understanding, analyze and discern, and put us in tune with the life around us. When we rest in the heart, then we can use thought wisely, we can plan and imagine in benevolent ways.

A professor of mathematics and topography who had come to meditation was worried because his work involved hours of thought. He asked how he could practice meditation while thinking through these complex math problems. Should he try to step back and always be deliberately aware of his thinking? This made him feel self-conscious. It was confusing. I responded with a simple instruction: “First, check your motivation. Approach the math in a positive and creative way. Then, when thinking about math, just think about math. If you get competitive and worry about publishing your solution before another colleague, that’s not math. If you find yourself dreaming about winning the Nobel Prize or the Field Medal, that’s not math. Find a skillful motivation. Then do the math and enjoy the creativity of the mind.”

The key to wise thought is to sense the energy state behind the thought. If we pay attention, we will notice that certain thoughts are produced by fear and the small sense of self. With them will be clinging, rigidity, unworthiness, defensiveness, aggression, or anxiety. We can sense their effect on the heart and the body. When we notice this suffering we can start to relax, breathe, loosen the identification. With this awareness the mind will become more open and malleable. With this pause we return to our Buddha nature. Now we can think, imagine, and plan, but from a state of ease and benevolence.

 

This excerpt is taken from the book, “The Wise Heart”

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