Thoughts, ideas, reflection – that’s what sets us apart from the rest of the living world, and has led to the evolution of our race to levels unparalleled in any other. An average person is said to have seventy thousand thoughts a day. We think fast, we think hard, and most times, we think in spite of ourselves. Thoughts are not always voluntary, most times they are involuntary. They can be triggered by a sound, sight, smell, but there may seem to be no trigger at all at times; and a thought just “comes” to your head. It may happen when you are awake but then we have all been woken up in the middle of the night by a thought too! Thoughts come, they go, they rule the space we call our “mind”, which by the way we think is a different place than the brain 😊. Many times, thoughts are so fast and agile, that one can’t even catch hold of them. One doesn’t seem to remember what that thought was and then one stumbles upon it at a completely different time.
I have long been fascinated by the concept of thoughts and how they criss-cross my brain at all times of the day and night – sometimes planned and willed, but many times unintended and uninvited. Scientifically, thoughts are electrochemical reactions that go through our neurons and synapses – parts of our neurological system. How a stimulus or trigger (conscious or unconscious) awakens the different neurons, decides the path that these signals take and the pattern the path forms; and that’s what shapes the “thought”. A thought is both the process and the outcome of it. The same trigger may enliven different paths in brains of different people or even with the same person at different times, leading to a different thought. And that ability to form different thought paths is where human creativity comes from. Once a thought has happened, it has happened, and it cannot be undone. And that’s the mechanism by which we don’t just learn, but “understand”. Understanding is quite permanent – we can “unlearn” something, but can we “un-understand”?
Net, thoughts are an essential part of how we are wired, are a big advantage for humankind and make us who we are. This has a negative side too, because this same thinking capacity can sometimes lead the brain into thinking overdrive – consciously or otherwise. It can become a very noisy place with “thought pollution” so much so that one feels the need for a break. Meditation, I am told, is the answer, where one creates a “thought-pollution-free” chamber for oneself in one’s brain to get that much-needed break for some time. Meditation needs training; it’s an essential part of yoga; ability to stay in a meditative state for long periods of time is believed to have been the secret of the health, wisdom and long life of ancient Indian sages.
If meditation is graduation from the school of thinking, I am right now just getting out of kindergarten! I have been thinking about my thoughts (ha ha) for a long time now – how they occur, why they occur, and more importantly, how I can chase them down. Yes, thoughts occur at such lightning speed, that sometimes I am exhausted just running after them and then frustrated that I lost them as I was too slow. And so, I want to try something new now, something different. I want to try to grab hold of my thoughts by writing them out – I know I can only do this for a miniscule fraction of them, but at least it’s a beginning.
“Manogat” is a Sanskrit word literally meaning “that which has gone into or through the mind”; I have not found a more precise description of a thought. Articulation of my “manogat” is exactly what I intend this series to be – an attempt to capture my reflections, an expression of things that have crossed my mind – some raw, some formed; some short, some long; some studied, some reflex; some simple, some complex; some instinctive, some intentional; some personal, some more general. It’s my attempt to pin and pen down some of the frenetic action in my mind, my manogat….