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Breaking Past the Echo Chamber of the Mind

Published on 14/08/18
by randy

I recall Wayne Dyer saying we have an estimated 60,000 thoughts a day, with almost all of them being repeating thoughts.  I also have heard ‘belief’ defined as a thought we won’t let go.  When we are stuck in our beliefs, rigid to pilgrimage to new thoughts, learning stops.  I do remember a time when the news was primarily non-emotive reporting.  The advertising persuasion was there for a new car or for cigarettes, but the news anchors didn’t report from their bias.  Our churches kept pushing static thoughts and the government had its agenda.  In effect, it seems those in power aim to control the thoughts we think so we’ll obey them.  I was fortunate, growing up through the static times of the 50’s and early 60’s where a culture of questioning those static thoughts was frowned upon.   And then the Beatles came with the rest of the British music invasion.  Eastern spiritual practices were influencing us, psychedelic drugs were pulling the rug from under our static world, and politics was being turned on its head with the beginning of globalization.  I was an early revolutionary at the time, and fortunately for me, my parents took an open minded approach to my challenge of those early childhood static thoughts.  While many of the rest of the family would have thrown me under the bus, while the church was appalled by my questioning thought and the state was disgusted that I wouldn’t blindly follow them to the Vietnam War, my parents encouraged and accepted my exploration of thought.

Holding on to repeating thoughts kills creativity and enthusiasm to meet life with vitality.  Just like water is flexible, always exploring the path of least resistance, constipated thought within the echo chamber of the mind is rigid and generally leads to anxiety, disatisfaction, craving, lack of vitality, anger, fear, and greed.  You can check this out for yourself by assessing your attachment to ‘being right’.  The more we’re attached to our sense of knowing the answer, the more threatened we are when we meet diversity of thought.  No doubt, it’s much easier to associate with those who echo the same thoughts in our minds than to engage in dialogue with those who have a different thought echo chamber.  And we seem to form our groups of similarity  to further entrench our ‘beliefs’.  I can feel safe speaking politics with those who think the same thoughts I do, speak religion with those who think God is what I think, and with those who consume like I consume.

This matter of consumption is crucial to our times as we’re facing media aimed to shape consciousness rather than to inform.  Media used to report events and leave the personal reaction to us.  Today, with the vast options to media and the corporate financial incentives to shape viewers’ minds, there is no news.  Perhaps the closest thing to news today is the BBC.  No matter where you turn, there’s an angle to persuade you to a particular repeating thought pattern based on inference and judgment.  It’s almost impossible to find a news anchor today reporting events without an emotive vocal inflection or biased slant to what the owners’ of the media want conveyed.  Whether it’s on the so described ‘right’ or ‘left’, we can pretty much predict the repeating thoughts we’ll hear day after day.  Those thoughts generate a horizontal thought association with what lines up with our thinking, we consume more and more, and ultimately become ‘obese in thought’, many times repeating the biased media’s rationale over and over and over.  This reinforces our sense of ‘I know that’ and kills the cornerstone of democracy which demands a well informed society willing to dialogue the events of the day with an open, ‘I don’t know that’, mindset.

Perhaps the greatest gift of a truly liberal arts education is coming to that place of intellectual thirst where you ‘know you don’t know’.  The deeper we go in our learning, the more we uncover, the more we know we’re just touching the tip of the iceberg. I remember researching topics at the library, reviewing the thoughts others had on the topic, providing my personal analysis, and then being challenged to come up with my own synthetic creative statement which incorporated previous thinkers with my thought.  It was always a humbling experience and my advisors were continuously challenging my inferences and conclusions until I was humbled to the vast mystery and depth of the issue.  It seems that students today ‘believe’ Google will provide them a complete answer.  Yet, our searches are ranked on a ‘pay to play’ basis, so once again,  it’s impossible to get an unbiased answer without influence from those in power and wealth.

Whether you’re under the influence of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Network or NBC’s counter marketing strategy with MSNBC, you’re decreasing your capacity to face issues with a creative mind.  If you do engage someone with an open mind you’re probably also caught in the fantasy of actually changing their mind.  This seldom goes well since an attempt to change another always has an underlying element of violence.  So how can we go forward, or has the propaganda machine won?

There is a way to break the echo chamber and move into new territory.  It’s through the process of ‘stilling the mind’, with a steady practice of simply observing our thoughts in silence, eventually noticing those magical places of ‘no thought’.  These moments are brief, but it’s where real peace is found and where the creative ‘new thought’ arises.  One spiritual teacher described it as a ‘bounce’.  It’s a space where we can let go our very notions/concepts of a separate being and touch impermanence and the felt sense of our interconnection with all things.  This is a place where original thoughts come up.  It’s actually called Divine Providence in the Declaration of Independence.  The founding fathers had a strong sense of spirituality and deep faith in thoughts arising from deep within the well of faith.  Indigenous cultures recognized this great power as well as they advised ‘just breathing’ before anyone speaks.  Actually, the word ‘inspire’ comes from the root of ‘breath in’.

If you want to break the echo chamber of static thoughts, increase your vitality, and contribute something new to the conversation rather than repeating old thoughts over and over, start a mindfulness practice in the early morning before the renegade mind takes over with relentless repeating thoughts.  This is easiest in nature with the first lighting of the day and the first nature sounds that accompany it.  In this space we’re more likely to bounce into the creative ‘no thought’ moment, more likely to touch the sacred and still the mind from the profane, from greedy and fearful thoughts, from the restlessness and disatisfaction that seems to come from the human condition.  Over time, you’ll be amazed at the discovery of first time thoughts, actually once again becoming the ‘creative artist of life’ you once were as a child.  This practice of awareness and mindfulness will lead to a richer quality of life as you become less and less concerned with ‘being right’, ‘changing others to be like you’, ‘seeking the approval of others’, or with numbing yourself from the pain of echo chamber thoughts through intoxicants and screen time.

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