Memory that we talked about in the previous chapter is a quiet and sneaky operator in the arena of mind in contrast to thought. Memory lies in the subterranean realm of our inner world and has to be evoked and ushered on to the conscious stage for experience, while thought prefers to work in the daylight of conscious mind. Thought represents the tip of the iceberg that is visible, while memory forms the part of its submerged and unknown segment. The significance of thought is, therefore, quite apparent and self-evident, but its absence would be akin to being plunged into a dark vacuum. The empty darkness without the light of thought makes many persons very uncomfortable, and some compare it with a sort of near-death experience.
No wonder Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.” Thought is construed as a hard and explicit evidence of our being alive. Though widely prevalent since the days of Descartes, it is a mistaken notion. On the contrary, the fact is that “I don’t think, yet I am.” Not only in the state of coma or dreamless sleep where the thinking faculty is not operating, but in the perfectly healthy state of the awake mind, thought can be absent when one is immersed in profound inner awareness or trancelike experience. Even during the surge of intense feelings of wonder, joy, sorrow, or anger, thought is absent at the initial stage, though the next moment it joins and takes over the stage of the conscious mind.
In all fairness, however, Descartes’ quote was not made in the absolute sense that in the absence of thought, one is dead. It was meant to highlight our daily experience that thought for us is the synonym of our conscious state, our sense of being alive. Hence, I think therefore I am. Most of the time, our conscious state is overwhelmed with the omnipresence of thought, though in conjunction with feelings and emotions. It is a moment-to-moment reminder of our life in action. Thought is, no doubt, our lifelong companion and friend in need or otherwise. We get annoyed with it, quarrel with it, hate its intrusive tendency or love its sensual contents and enjoy its smooth and caressing touch. In sum, whether we like it or not, thought is always with us even in our dreams.
For most of us, thought is inseparable from our sense of self or subjective identity. Our feeling of “me” or “I” is perceived as indivisible from our thought. Unfortunately, that lifelong feeling is grossly misplaced in reality, because thought is merely a diffused, small, and relatively weaker segment of our consciousness. It is often pushed around by the stronger forces of emotions and memory. We tend to identify thought falsely with our self or the feeling of me. That is due to the fact that we use it practically all the time in life, and it operates almost ceaselessly by eclipsing our subjective sense of self. During stress and depression, this identiﬁcation becomes so acute and self-effacing that the objectivity that is needed most at that time becomes an unfortunate casualty.
Therefore, it is quite essential to understand the place of thought in the scheme of our consciousness and distinguish it clearly from our sense of self. Our self-submerged identity with thought needs to be questioned to ensure the objectivity that is crucial for avoiding problems of stress and anxieties. We normally take thought as an objective perception of the external world and our experiences. That is only partially true and sometimes misleading. These lay notions are at the root of many problems in life. Hence, the journey into our inner world has to halt at the door of thought to explore its intricacies and self-engrossing power…Read more in the book…..