Do You Think Too Much? What Neuroscientists and Yogis Say

Most people think too much – that’s human nature. The mind is a thought generator, it is constantly creating an endless stream of thoughts. It’s easy to become caught up in our thoughts, ruminating about the little things of life, attempting to avoid the bigger issues, and perhaps feeling powerless and doubting our ability to deal with things.

Over the past decade, various neurological studies have shown that the average person has more than thirty thousand thoughts a day. Of those thoughts, approximately ninety percent are said to be repetitive and eighty percent are classified as negative.

By “negative”, neuroscientists mean that these thoughts do not offer anything beneficial such as support for our ideas, desires, wellbeing and achievements. Most of these thoughts are your mind worrying or ruminating, or planning to avoid problems. Essentially, this means that the majority of our thoughts are a constant negating force in our body-mind; they rob us of energy and mental peace.

Your initial reaction to this knowledge may be to look for an inner switch that can turn off the negative thoughts and retain the more positive, supporting thoughts. You might imagine that this switch is your intention and that you can will yourself into better thoughts. Try to control your thoughts for ten seconds and you will see just how difficult this is. In fact it is impossible. The mind has to think just as the heart has to beat, that is its function. You cannot and should not turn it off.

You cannot manage your thoughts by thinking about how to manage them. There is a better way and yogis and wisdom traditions have known how to do this for thousands of years. They developed techniques that connect the thinking mind to the knowing mind. If the thinking mind is disconnected from the knowing mind then the thinking mind is your master.

When thoughts rule you – the lower thinking mind runs riot

The ninety percent of repetitive thoughts that neuroscientists are describing are generated by what yogis call the lower, thinking mind. The lower thinking mind is the basis of our normal waking state of consciousness, our daily mind that interacts with the world. It produces the thousands of endless, repetitive, and of often negative thoughts.

Over time, the thinking mind forges grooves in the body-mind, embedded patterns that have a potent, imperceptible power to:

  • Drain us energetically and emotionally
  • Increase our stress and anxiety levels
  • Undermine our decision-making and confidence
  • Confuse our thoughts with external reality
  • Thwart our ability to adapt and be creative

While there is no inner switch that can turn off the thinking mind, there is a part of you that is deeper and more powerful and that has the opposite attributes. That part is positive, promoting, protecting, nurturing and supporting. That part helps you to creatively use your thinking mind. It is the higher, intuitive mind and it one of the ways you gain access to it is through meditation. It is possible to learn how to manage the mind, to use the mind’s potential purposefully and creatively so that you are not swamped by random and chaotic thoughts.

When you rule your thoughts – you are connected to the higher intuitive mind

The higher intuitive mind is also called the “higher self”, the “wisdom body”, or the “knowing self”.

It is the wise part of you that knows what is really good for you. It knows how to be in the world and how to respond to life with authenticity, spontaneity, courage, skill and wisdom. The higher intuitive mind is responsible for the formation of your sense of self and your ability to gain accurate perspective. It is aligned with your inner data bank of deep knowledge.

It is wise to connect to and cultivate the higher mind so that the endless stream of thoughts, the thinking mind, does not control you.

The aim of meditation is not to escape the thinking mind since we need it for our survival. The aim is to connect your two minds, so that thinking mind can hear, respond to and learn from the wisdom of your intuitive mind. Only then can you begin to disentangle from and live in harmony with your more than thirty thousand daily thoughts. (Actually, there are probably many more thoughts than these if we include everything that is going on in the subconscious mind.)