6 min read
Learning to separate ego-driven thinking from soul-inspired thinking is a challenge of growing spiritually.
Stop thinking so much.
You think like you breathe -- constantly, often unconsciously, even when you are asleep.
If you looked inside your head you would see the hourglass perpetual motion icon that shows up on your computer screen.
The quality of your thinking when you are in the throes of the ego is totally different than the quality of your thinking when you are experiencing the power of the soul. It's like comparing the sound of a broken blender to the sound of harp strings blown by the wind.
ANALYTIC THINKING AND THE EGO
The Hebrew word for analytic thinking is binah, coming from the root boneh, "to build." Binah can be understood as the process of analyzing data, weighing one idea against another, "building" an argument. (The great commentator Rashi calls it "understanding one idea when comparing it to another.") This type of thinking is quite necessary for balancing your checkbook, analyzing stock, and learning the Talmud, among many other things.
But when the ego gets hold of binah, it turns cognition into obsession.
The ego tricks you into believing that if you obsess long enough, you will get a good answer.
The ego keeps bringing up the same thoughts over and over again, tricking you into believing that if you obsess long enough, you will get a good answer.
Imagine you have an important job interview. You made it through the first few rounds unscathed, and now it's down to the last meeting with the company's cigar-chewing, military-hair-cut CEO. You're excited as you mentally prepare yourself.
But then, suddenly your ego throws you a thought, "What if I get intimidated and lose my confidence? What then? He'll see right through me! He'll tell everybody I'm less than even a nothing! I'll end up selling recycled cement for a living!"
Now let's say instead of recognizing this as a thought coming from the ego you take it seriously. You'll probably start to process these thoughts, reviewing them over and over again. You'll remember all the times in the past when you felt intimidated. You'll see yourself blowing the interview. You'll try to "figure out" how not to get intimidated but end up just feeling worse.
Binah is like a computer -- it will process whatever you give it, but in the choke-hold of the ego, it gets you caught in an infinite download loop.
We Jews like thinking analytically, and we pray for a deeper ability to exercise our binah.
Now don't go getting the wrong idea here. Binah itself is a good thing. We Jews like thinking analytically, and we pray three times a day for a deeper ability to exercise our binah. Here, we're talking about what happens when your ego starts steering the wheel of your thinking.
What are the warning signs that binah is being driven by your ego?
Your feelings are your guide: you will be permeated with anxiousness, you will get headaches, you will walk around with that unsettled feeling of irritation. These emotions are warning signs that you are being overloaded with ego driven thoughts. It feels like someone is playing bad 1980's heavy metal in your head.
Replace this music with light Jazz flowing like a river on a summer night and you have the soul's thinking. If the ego's thoughts are hard and choppy, the soul's thoughts flow through you like liquid crystal.
KNOWLEDGE AND THE SOUL
The Torah refers to another type of thinking called daat. There is no direct English Translation for daat. The Hebrew word daat comes from the root yodea -- which means both to know and to be connected to.
When the Torah says that Adam "knew" Eve, it uses the word daat.
It is wisdom you feel in your bones. It's the part of you that will always know how to ride a bike. It's intuitive, as opposed to a cognitive, or cerebral, understanding. When you get the kind of understanding called daat, you never forget it.
Did you ever watch a master potter at work, spinning a mass of clay into a beautiful vase? He is not reckoning, or analyzing where he should put his hands. Rather, what guides his hands is a flow of thoughts so subtle that he doesn't even know he is thinking. It is via this kind of flow that the soul communicates its wisdom to you.
Everyone has had this soul experience of knowing -- it's the source of all your new creative ideas.
Everyone has had this soul experience of knowing. It's the source of all your new creative ideas. When you have a problem and the answer just comes to you, without your active hunt for a solution, that is daat at work. . One of the key differences between daat and binah is that while your analytical skills can be honed and developed, your daat cannot be developed or learned, only given from above. One doesn't learn how to develop daat, one learns how to access the daat that already exists within. In the prayer for wisdom we ask God to teach us binah, and we ask God to bequest to us Daat.
Daat never exhausts you or stresses you out. It's invigorating, and is always accompanied by a feeling of perspective. You are using your daat when you can "see" that your spouse is just tired and cranky when they throw a cast iron skillet at you for forgeting the garbage, or when you "understand" exactly how talk to your child to get them to stop putting the cat in the washing cycle.
One of the incredible aspects of daat is that since it flows from your soul, it is a mode through which you can access your own endless repository of wisdom. If you have ever had an insight that you know is wise, know that there is a lot more where that came from. More than you will ever know. Infinitely more.
How do you access this kind of thinking?
First know that it is available to you constantly.
Next realize that it doesn't take much effort to access your daat. In fact, it is precisely through the relaxing of your thinking that your daat comes to the surface. Few people are aware that your thinking is constantly coming through your head at different speeds.
When you relax your thinking, your daat comes to the surface.
Daat is the relaxed slow-flow kind of thinking, versus the high-octane overdrive your thoughts go into when your ego has you in the midst of a panic attack. You want to access your daat? Slow down the velocity of your thought. Accessing your daat may sound foreign but it couldn't be more natural. When your relax your mind, your daat shows up. The power of daat comes from a quiet mind.
The Torah instructs that the real secret to accessing your daat is by simply recognizing where it comes from. It is a gift. Lovingly delivered by the Giver of all things.