For as long as I can remember, my dad would say periodically, “Do you know what I was thinking about this morning?” I knew exactly where he was when he was “thinking.” He was in bed, laying there, pondering the thoughts of life before he would get up and tend to the needs of the day. I thought about him doing that early morning meditative thinking this very morning as I lay in my bed thinking about the needs of the day or the profound things that were wafting into my thoughts before I, too, was to get up.
Thinking. Our society has become bent on eliminating that art from our daily lives. Every hour, every minute, seems to be consumed with activity, to-do lists, sound, Social Media to scroll, television to take occupation of our minds, and so many other intruders to our time. Gordon McDonald, in a speech once said, “We need to, above all else, teach our children to think!” The competition to eliminate idleness (or boredom!) when thoughts can explore the ideas, questions, fears, and wonders of life seems to be at an all-time high.
In high school, my dad made breakfast in order to let Mom sleep. He would call us kids to wake up and then begin making breakfast. When I would come through the kitchen to go down the hall and take my shower, I would see Dad sitting by the dining room table, one sock on, and the other in his hand. He would be sitting there, lost in thought. A model of thinking for his children.
My brother, Pete, told me of a man who would go into a closet at his work every day for 20 minutes. In his closet were a table and chair, a pen and paper, and a string attached to a light bulb in the ceiling. There he would sit for 20 minutes. If an idea came to him, he would pull the string to turn the light on, write the thought on the paper, and pull the string to turn the light off in order to resume his thinking.
Just “think” if we would do that every day. Would there be as much anger and worry? Would there be as much black and white thinking dividing our communities and country? Would there be more conversations laced with listening spirits in order to adjust our thoughts and open ourselves to other ideas?
I used to tell my graduate students these stories. I implored them to drive without the radio on, exercise without ear buds tethered to an iPod, and think…think in quiet so thoughts can sweep in and take up residence where before the intruder of sound competed for your heart and soul, deciding what you think, what you believe, and who you are.
Last year, a grandpa came to school too early to pick up his grandchild at the end of the day. He sat for 30 minutes. He sat for 30 minutes in idle thought. Allison and I were amazed and wondered what he may have been thinking about during that time. Not once did he dig into his pocket for a phone to scroll Facebook or play games…he just sat and thought. Using the time, the brain, and the eyes of observation that God gave to him to explore the world inside his mind. I wondered…could I do it? I’m practicing. Join me? Let’s start something wonderful.