Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Not Thinking in Words

For those who are bilingual, there is usually one language that predominates over the other. For the majority of my immigrant friends born in another country and educated in America, they would say “I think in English.” Their thoughts would be confined to one particular tongue, with all its connotations, implications, cultural influences, and related philosophies.

This concept never made sense to me. When they asked me, I never seemed to have a satisfactory reply because I never qualified my thinking that way. I didn’t know what “language” my thinking was in because my thoughts were often abstract that I struggled to express them in either medium (English or Vietnamese). Admittedly, I used to stutter because my thoughts would get caught in translation and often choke there.

After Bobbie left, I was resigned to the silence once again. Far from being resistant, I relished it. I noticed things. Fog settled along the path to the chapel in early morning, accentuating the monastery with an almost gothic appeal. Think the moors of England. Cows grazed in varying locations every day. I found bird’s nests and cocoons, shells that harbored tiny lives that would someday grace the sky with soft wings. Dawn and dusk were symphonies of shade and light. The suddenness of entirety, the way the final stroke of color completed the sunrise, never ceased to amaze me, more luminous than any painter’s palette.

Each day was different. Despite the monotony of activities (hiking, praying, walking), I was never struck by the sameness and it honestly never felt “the same.” The river told a distinct tale every afternoon and as the currents washed along the rocks, I heard music. The bamboo rustled and the horticulturalist’s pond boasted a variety of dragonflies and grasshoppers that no longer repulsed me.

Then it struck me. Without words, I had forgotten pronouns: I, you, us, they, it. Divisions that existed in words were no longer part of my consciousness, we were all one and I was part of everything. I was as connected to a dragonfly as I was to the trees and mountains as I was connected to my family, to the human race. My thoughts had surpassed, i.e. erased the concept of “me.” There was no need for the containment of an identity in a separate package of “me.” Identity was in relationship, in unity, in harmony with all creatures and inanimate surroundings, this thriving, living breath that touches all things.

Thinking comes from the mind and loving comes from the heart, and understanding is a melding of the two when we act with one mind and one heart that is not entirely our own. Theologically, I have always believed. Experientially, I felt something greater out there, a presence that yearns to connect with us in a peace and serenity that far exceeds mortal happiness. I have always named it God.

Now I know beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Another interesting discovery is the obliteration of words removes judgment. You accept the fact for what it is and nothing more. No preconceptions, no notions, no suppositions. For example, “It is raining.” Before the silence, my logical conclusions from the rain would be “oh no, that means a lot of traffic and potential flooding,” or “thank God, it’s been hot enough,” or “hope I brought an umbrella.” Now the rain just is.

I was surprised how much I unintentionally judged people before by the same principle, by interpreting the facts when the reality is that I just don’t know. I have learned that people are. Motivation may be an intellectually stimulating exercise, but it is not my place and certainly not the truth. Acknowledge their actions and move on. People just are.

I have become much happier not trying to figure everything out.

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