I remember as a child asking my mother if it was possible think without words.
She was very puzzled. It seemed to me that thinking happened that way sometimes, and other times I had words in my head that formed the thoughts.
As someone who loves words, I’m aware of the power they hold. Words spoken to another can literally change their lives positively, or negatively.
Words have an effect on our minds and our feelings. Just repeat the word ‘death’ several times in your head and you will see what I mean. Then try the word ‘peace’ and see the difference.
Each word we speak is saturated with meaning, feeling, and images, that we have absorbed from our parents, and then the world at large.
No matter what language you are using, every person who has ever spoken the word ‘tree’ can experience an image, a feeling, a smell, a sensation or an emotion connected to that word. Each time we interact with trees in any way we will enrich this word further with our own experience.
Of course we all have to know what words mean so that we can communicate, but once our minds are imbued with their meaning, what happens then? The words can get out of control, and go around and around in our heads in the shape of thoughts.
Our bodies respond to each and every thought that we have, whether it’s peaceful or not, and usually they’re not. Research has shown that we have between 60 – 90,000 thousand thoughts every day. A lot of these are repetitive and negative, causing us stress, so it’s no wonder that so many people suffer from anxiety.
Words are powerful and shape our reality. I once studied Siddha Yoga based on an eastern philosophy called Kashmir Shaivism, and it said that there are three ‘malas’ or impurities that contract our knowledge; the first is to think that you are imperfect, the second is to see duality in the universe: good or bad, and right or wrong; and the third is the sense of doing good or bad actions. According to this philosophy, these three impurities are brought into being just from the power of the word.
Words can limit us, but they can also set us free. All it takes is to be aware of their power, and then have the intention to choose them wisely. We can start by listening to others in a different way, being aware of the feelings and images that words create within our minds; watching rather than reacting, being present, and not one step ahead in a conversation; we are then able to respond more appropriately.
In meditation we are taught to watch our thoughts instead of reacting to them; to let feelings drift past and leave, and to find the peace that remains. There is only One Consciousness, and we share it; it is the true part of us that can stand back and witness all the thoughts that we have. If you can witness the thoughts or the words, you are not that. You are that which witnesses, the One Consciousness.
So, after many years of practising meditation, do I still think its possible to think without using words? All I know is that there is a spaciousness when they are not there and a peaceful presence. When the words start again, it’s an opportunity to watch them and notice any reaction that I may have, and then return to the silence.
It’s taken me all these years to recognise what I already had as a child.