When You Think You Know

When You Think You Know

The Secret to Self-Awareness

Have you ever bought a lottery ticket and somehow just knew that you were going to win — only to find out that you didn’t? If so, what you truly knew was not that a future event was going to happen. Rather, what you knew was that you thought a future event was going to happen. In other words, what you knew was not the event itself but rather your own wishful thinking, regardless of whether you knew that you were engaging in wishful thinking or not.

Discerning between your thoughts and your knowledge is an essential form of self awareness that many people are frequently unaware of. As I write these words, I know that outside there is a mostly blue sky with some white, wispy clouds. Yet, how do I know that? Well, I know that because I am experiencing the sky through my eyes. Of course, the words: “blue”, “sky”, “white”, “wispy”, and “clouds” are all thoughts. I only know these words to the extent that I know what I’m thinking.

If I was a native speaker of Spanish, I might look at the same sky and think the words: “un cielo azul con nubes blancas tenues”. Yet, my knowledge of the sky would be the same, regardless of how I thought about my experience of it. This is because knowledge does not come from thought; it comes from experience.

Thought arises from the need to solve problems, such as the problem of communicating meaning to others. When a hungry animal knows of the presence of food, such as by smell or by sight, that animal must solve the problem of how to access the food in order to ensure its survival. When an animal knows of the presence of a potential mate, that animal must solve the problem of how to access the potential mate to ensure the creation and survival of its descendants. This is how and why brains evolved the capacity for complex mental processing.

The ability to solve problems within a given environment is part of what determines an animal’s fitness, how well it fits into its environment. The better the fit, the more likely an animal and its descendants are to survive. This is what was originally meant by the term “survival of the fittest”.

As human beings, our exceedingly capable minds have enabled us to not only survive but thrive in every terrestrial environment on Earth. Our vast mental capacity has enabled us to solve vastly complex problems. And, we put our mental capacity to use — a lot. By focusing our attention on our thoughts, we make problem-solving our highest priority, even when there aren’t any problems worth solving.

By over-thinking, we allow thoughts to constitute the majority of our experience of life. We come to know our thoughts at the expense of knowing the lives we are living outside of our thoughts.

When you think you know, you only know that you’re thinking.
When you know you know, you are knowing life itself.

The secret to self-awareness is to be more aware of your experience of life than you are of your thoughts. Wisdom arises not from how much you think but from how much you know.

It is through your wisdom that you come to know what is worthwhile for you to think about. If nothing is worth thinking about in a given moment, that is when you can give your full attention to the glorious reality which you are a part of. That is when it is time to look up and marvel at a blue sky with white, wispy clouds. That is when you truly live your life, rather than just think that you are living. To get started:

1. Treat life as the blessing that it is, rather than as a series of problems to solve.
2. Welcome the experience of living, regardless of any discomfort.
3. Love your world, both in its messiness and in its magnificence.

By knowing the glory of life, you experience the glory of love. By experiencing the glory of love, you know your life as fulfilled.

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