“I think, therefore, I am” (Cogita Ergo Sum) wrote Rene Descartes. This simple statement became a fundamental proposition in Western philosophy and a foundation for the formation of all knowledge in the mid 1600s.
Two and a half centuries later, Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “The time for thinkers has come” at the beginning of her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” It’s a book that challenges the idea that thought is solely the province of the human mind, and explores the idea that there is a divine influence that can change the way we think about life and health. Her book came as a result of many years of research into how Jesus healed. This exploration led her to the conclusion that our very health depends on our ability to reason – i.e., think through something – spiritually.
But are we comfortable with the exercise of thinking, either spiritually or humanly? John Terrell, editor of Science Dialogues, recently wrote an article called “Is thinking a popular leisure time choice?” He referred to a series of studies that have recently been published and are under much discussion. “Just Think – The challenges of the disengaged mind,” looks at the findings of a team of researchers from the University of Virginia: “In 11 studies, we found that participants typically did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think, that they enjoyed doing mundane external activities much more, and that many preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts. Most people seem to prefer to be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative”.
But the study does not examine what it was that the subjects disliked so much about the prospect of silent thinking, other than they preferred to be doing something other than just sitting and thinking.
I would say that thinking is much more important to people than this study would have us believe, and especially when it comes to our health. Thinking can be positive and active, not just mindless and passive. And it can contribute to our health in ways that are only just beginning to be explored by Western cultures.
For example, Therese Bouchard discovered the importance of her ability to think after nearly a decade of struggle with alcoholism and bipolar disorder. She had spent eight years just doing what her psychiatrist and doctor said; that is, remembering the old adage, “If you think too much, you’ll get drunk.” But then she started to consider her life more deeply, and how it was going nowhere. And she began to wonder whether perhaps she was taking too many drugs and should instead be thinking about taking some responsibility for her thoughts and actions, and not allowing others to think for her. She and her doctor talked about it, and both “acknowledged that neither conventional psychiatry nor functional medicine holds all the answers.” She began to realize the importance of taking charge of her thoughts and her life. She said it was the first time since her hospitalization that she had reached for the helm.
Bouchard learned the importance of taking charge of her own thinking to improve her health.
I can really relate to Bouchard’s experience. Many years ago I struggled with depression. I saw it as something I had, and therefore had to get rid of; but it stayed with me like a large black cloud wherever I went. Then one day, while feeling particularly low, I had an epiphany: “Why, it is not the presence of depression that you are having to remove, but rather, you are believing you have lost your joy.” This piece of reasoning was a wake up call. I saw there was something I could do for myself.
I accepted that joy was in my life. It was not lost, because real joy is spiritual; and though sometimes hidden, it is there within each of us – always. It is one way we can feel the presence of the divine. The result was that I determined to be mindful each day to notice that joy, whether it was seeing a dog wagging its tail or a child laughing on the street. I became very absorbed in this activity, and one day, after some months, a friend remarked to me how full of joy I was. I realized with surprise that I had not felt that dark sadness for quite some months. It has never returned.
Spiritual thinking is an active ability we all possess and can learn to utilize. And when we use it, we feel whole again, in every area of our lives.