Thinking is sometimes a good thing… sometimes it is not.
Mr. B: Here's the problem with thinking. You can't ever really not think.
And thus began one of Mr. Babushnik's most interesting conversations. We had been walking through the park passing children playing with their toy sailboats in the pond. I had been simply talking about my day at school. And while I no longer can remember exactly what I was saying, I am sure it had little more to do than with what a friend had said, or a mild altercation in the playground, or how I felt about that or this teacher. What Mr. Babushnik said though on that spring day I will never forget.
But my initial response to his statement was typical:
R: I never really thought about that.
Mr. B: That is exactly what I mean. Even when you say, “I never thought about that,” it is a thought saying it never thought. So is a thought an idea, the content? Or is it a thing that the idea comes in? For example, let us say you get a letter. Is the letter the ink that someone used to write their thoughts? Or is it the paper on which they wrote the ink? Or is it the envelope in which you found the letter?
I wasn't quite sure what Mr. Babushnik was getting at, but by now I knew it was better not to object but to continue on the journey.
Mr. B: Thoughts are the slipperiest thing there ever have been. Like a bucket of eels, not that I ever have held a handful of eels, but it is a nice image, don't you think?
And with that phrase “Don't you think?” I felt the oddest sensation—a tickle. Although, I couldn't say exactly where the tickle was. Was it fun? Was Mr. Babushnik challenging me? Was it a question asking me for more of these slippery eely things called thoughts or was it a command: “Don’t think!” Trying to see if I could not think. But before I could finish my though Mr. Babushnik continued:
Mr. B: So let us say a thought is like a letter. And the letter consists of paper and the ink with which we wrote down our thoughts. But if you take away the ink, we are just left with the paper. So then do we still have a thought, just without any content? And then of course, we shouldn't forget the envelope.
R: What about the stamp?
Mr. B: Very good. You are beginning to understand very well.
Of course, I had not a clue as to what I had done, or why saying “stamp” was worthy of any praise. But, it was the only thing I could think to say.
Mr. B: So what is a thought? Can it exist without its paper?
R: But what is the paper? I can see how the thought is like the ink -- the ideas, the meaning. But then what is the paper?
B: It is what you read the thought on. In this case we call it consciousness.
R: Is that the paper?
B: Of course it is. But only part, because have you ever wondered what happens if your paper has a different color.
R: Well then what is consciousness?
B: Some call it energy.
R: But, I can hear or see my thoughts. I see the ink. But, in this case I can't see the paper or what you call the energy.
B: Yes, you can.
R: No, I can't.
B: Just be quiet for a moment and you will. Of course, all those noises in your head are thoughts. Be quiet and feel the thought.
R: But you can't feel thoughts.
Mr. B: Yes, you can.
R: No, feelings are feelings and thoughts are thoughts.
Mr. B: Well, have you ever thought about what are feelings?
I sensed that one of Me. Babushnik's traps was coming. But I knew better than to decline.
R: I don't know.
Mr. B: Let's then think about this, if you will. Have you ever wondered whether thoughts and feelings are really the same thing—that maybe a thought always is part of a feeling and feeling is always part of a thought? You see, it's only thoughts that like to tell us that thoughts and feelings are different. Try this. Let's take a thought. Any thought. Let's take your name again. What is it?
It was often at such time that Mr. Babushnik seemed to be lost in such a reverie that he would forget a name.
Mr. B: Think to yourself: I am Richard. Now, is there a feeling as part of the thought?
R: No, I don't think so.
Mr. B. Look again. Or rather feel again.
I tried to peer into myself as though I was a great giant looking down inside myself, as though part of myself was a dark cavern and another part held a tiny flashlight trying to illuminate the darkness. It seemed as though nothing was there just the cavern. Mr. Babushnik must have sensed my frustration.
Mr. B: Don't give up. You are almost there.
I closed my eyes and said to myself 'I am Richard". Then, the thought just seemed suspended in the air or maybe the thought moved slowly enough that it seemed as though I could at last see the bottom of the cavern. Or rather, maybe 'felt' was the word, that there was something there, a tickle, a little bit of a buzz. I opened my eyes.
R: Very good, I see that you have seen something.
Mr. B: Now, I want you to think this thought.
I looked up.
Mr. B: You are really quite small and stupid.
I must have frowned. Mr. Babushnik laughed heartily.
Mr. B: I see you are reacting. But quick, dip inside. What do you see? What do you feel?
This time inside the cavern there was darkness with a red hue. It that seemed as though there was a fire covering over the walls. Not only that I felt something else, something different, not quite a feeling. It felt as though my body were now the walls of the cave. My skin and my cheeks and head were burning. Even my hands were sweating.
I opened my eyes.
Mr. B: So you see there really is a no difference between thoughts and feelings and many other things. Think a thought and you will find a feeling. You may think that it is not a very big feeling, but that's not really true. Every thought has a big feeling, we are just become so anesthetized to so many of these thought-feelings that we usually can't feel it. And likewise, every feeling has a thought. But sometimes the feeling is so big that we don't see the thought that goes with it. Because the thought looks so little small next to the big feeling we often don't notice that the thought is there at all. It is like looking at two sides of the same coin, except each side is so different we don't realize that they are two sides of the very same thing.
I stopped in my tracks realizing the import of what Mr. Babushnik had said. It was an epiphany that was like a lightning bolt coursing through my whole body. It was as though this one thought had an energy that was intense and shocking.
Mr. Babushnik simply smiled and continued.
Mr. B: Of course, the problem becomes this: the first time you hear a good new thought, like the one you just heard, it has a certain energy. The second time you hear the very same thought, it has a different energy, because you already heard it before. It is usually a little less intense. After three times, what was the new thought is now just a plain old, old thought. It's just becomes part of the background noise in your head. The challenge is how to keep the right energy with the right thought alive and powerful.
Somehow I knew that this was a tremendous key a doorway that would open a path to lead to infinite new paths. I looked at Mr. Babushnik and could only ask.
R: Then what? If feelings are thoughts and thoughts are feelings, what does that mean?
Mr. B: Not much, except that you have to be very careful what you think.
R: Why would that be?
Mr. B: Simple. Are there good thoughts and are there bad thoughts?
I wasn't really sure, but I nodded meekly.
R: I guess so.
Mr. B: Are there good feelings and bad feelings?
Now I was far more confident of my answer.
R: Yes, sure there are. Some feelings are good and make me happy and some are sad or angry feelings.
Mr. B: Which feelings do you prefer to have?
R: Good feelings.
Mr. B: Yes, that's what everyone says. But here is a very interesting thought. Not everyone seems to like good feelings. In truth, most people get so use to bad feeling-thoughts that they seem to prefer it. I can only suspect most people don't know they have a choice and could live with good feeling-thoughts if they really wanted to.
R: This is getting very complex.
Mr. B: It may seem so, but not really at all. You see, it is reasonable to think that we should always examine our feeling-thoughts to see if they are good feeling thoughts or bad feeling thoughts—if they take us to being happy or take us away.
I stopped walking. Mr. Babushnik stopped also.
R: Most thoughts seem in between. I know some thoughts make me very happy.
Mr. B: Like the though of ice cream.
R: Yes, it does. And I guess there are a lot of thoughts that make me not happy.
Mr. B: Like a teacher scolding you a school.
R: Yes. But most, honestly, seem in between.
Mr. B: Are they really? The more you examine your thought-feelings, the more you will realize that there are no neutral thoughts, some take you forward to happiness, some take you back.
We walked along in silence. And I had the most interesting sensation. The world seemed alive and vibrating, as though I was suddenly so much more aware of the life, the energies inside myself. A thought then came to me, "This is what being alive is all about." I remember that so clearly. The thought itself was alive. It as though feeling-thoughts were buzzing, vibrating inside myself. And then another thought came that challenged, "Is there really an inside to an outside?" And then I looked around and found that the whole world was alive. The colors were brighter than they were a moment before. And I could no longer say whether there was an inside of me or an outside of me.
Then Mr. Babushnik continued:
Mr. B: I have been wondering myself.
I looked up at him for a moment lifted from my reverie, his eyes alight with glee and maybe what today I might call mischief. Mr. Babushnik's comment was succinct as always:
Mr. B: Then again we haven't yet figured out the envelope. I wonder what that is?