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THE SILENCE BEHIND THE WORDS

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The most important thing to know about “Conscious Conversations” may at first seem obvious, but in practice it’s anything but obvious: it isn’t the conversation that’s conscious, but rather the act of conversing. The word “conversation” derives originally from the Latin conversari  and later the Old French (14th Century), which means “to live, dwell, inhabit”. When one is conversing, one is dwelling in a particular space usually together with one or more other people, though sometimes only with oneself. It’s the space in which one speaks that can be conscious, not what one says.

The second most important thing to know is that we are always already in a conversation. Or as Martin Heidegger, the 20th Century German philosopher, put it, we always already find ourselves residing in the house of language. When conversing with other people the conversations are out loud expressions, while conversing with oneself takes the form of internal thoughts.

Though many have since used it, I believe it was David Bohm, the renowned quantum physicist, who originally coined the term “thoughting” to make the distinction between real thinking and merely having thoughts. Most of us are all too familiar with the constant stream of internal chatter, the constant flow of judgment and evaluation about everything and everyone (including oneself) that we know as “the little voice in our heads”. In fact, we often wish we could turn that little voice off.

While we may believe that this flow of thoughts is evidence of thinking, it’s actually not. Rather, it’s evidence of how the brain/mind works to manufacture an automatic and repetitive torrent of mind chatter. This manufactured internal dialogue isn’t thinking because it’s not intentionally generated. Instead, it’s a triggered phenomenon produced by reactive mental and emotional processes based on stored memories of past experiences. Hence, the past based “thoughting” rather than present based “thinking”.

When engaged in thoughting what is always implicitly present is a concern for oneself. In other words, because the thoughts that stream by are always in relation to an experience from the past, the one who experienced it is necessarily close at hand in the background. It’s not that we are thinking about ourselves, but rather that our thoughts are recognizable and familiar because they are part of the story in which each of us is the main character. And regardless of whether these thoughts cast us in a positive or a negative light, they clearly belong to our catalogue of habitual opinions, beliefs, values and memories.

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