Don’t Think…

The unexpected benefit of twice weekly physical/occupational therapy for my wrist has been exploring neighborhoods outside my usual turf. I’ve been walking to and from the facility on East 38th Street between 1st & 2nd avenues. As long as it’s not raining or snowing, it’s a nice distance to walk, with hilly sections; interesting architecture; fascinating street art; shops, bars, & restaurants; and, of course, people watching. I try to vary my route and now know which options to avoid and which will likely yield a more pleasant walk.

I’m pretty sure that the sign (see photo) outside Sukyo Mahikari center on East 31st Street is not advising a complete absence of thought in favor of smiling through everything, but I’m also certain that the lure of many such spiritual paths is lost on me.

Although there are many wonderful times when the conscious mind steps back and the joy of an experience fills the void, I can’t see myself adopting a philosophy that negates the machinations of my brain. Yes, I acknowledge the ZONE—when the body transcends thought process and flies. This phenomenon is inherent in many wonderful experiences including sex and dancing.

But the joy of a smiling life does not offer a trade that my mind would tolerate. I have a jumping, bouncing, word-game-playing, monkey brain. My best meditations are on the move. I walk and let my mind travel. I tell myself stories. I write without a pen or a keyboard. I embrace the duality of the mind/body experience, while celebrating its unity.

Back when I was going to yoga classes on a regular basis, the meditation portion of the class sent my monkey brain on the chase. Yes, I could wash away the part of me making a grocery list, but my imagination wanted to write stories—if only for my own amusement and to fill the lovely time sitting in a quiet room.

For me it is Thinking AND Smiling, not joy because I’m in a spiritual zone that separates me from the bouncing brain’s games. Right now, in a time & place of trouble, a scary world of violence, inequality, intolerance, climate crisis, and deep divisions, checking out of the thinking business may be tempting to some, but I’m hanging on to the thought processes and hope that many people do… one of us may find a solution to at least one of the world’s ills. Don’t you think?

Don’t worry, be happy…


  1. I have no idea what that organisation is like so I may be maligning them, but…that kind of advice always makes me think there’s a sub-text that goes ‘…and let me do your thinking for you.’
    Not my cup of tea. 🙁

    • Candy Korman

      In this particular case, I believe it’s more in the realm of “be spiritual and don’t dwell in the mundane” but in the end it amounts to the same thing. If one abdicates responsibility and action and defiance and the rest of the package of life that we have in the real world, then there is room for authoritarians to take over. If we don’t think, they will think for us. One of my friends is involved with the Art of Living people and I was warned that right after the last presidential election that at his birthday party I would meet people so apolitical that they could not allow themselves to be disappointed in winner of the election. They were said to be above the fray, but I felt like their passivity was part of my country’s problem.

      George Orwell wrote an essay about Gandhi that turns the great man of peace on his head. Passive resistance is not always the right path and Orwell makes it plain. I wound up in an intense and interesting debate in a yoga class a few years back. The school promoted subjects of the month and when Gandhi was the subject I brought up the essay in which Orwell critiques Gandhi’s insistence that had the Jews marched into the ovens they would have made a better stand for peace. Fighting did not “serve” their cause… in Gandhi’s opinion. This was sacrilege of the highest order in the yoga school, but I am still friends with the teacher because she responded with curiosity and interest instead of anger.

      From my point-of-view it’s fine to smile and embrace the joyful aspects of life, but smiling in the face of poverty, inequality, violence, and hatred is worse than getting angry.

      Don’t worry. Be happy… is OK for a minute or two, but sometimes you have to fight for change! And the day I saw the sign during my meditative walk, I stopped in my tracks. Photographed it and stood there in amazement. I am more joyful when I’m THINKING!

  2. Just smile! The song “Turn it Off” from The Book of Mormon comes to mind. I’m not good at shutting thoughts down, but I am making more of an effort all the time to meditate. Letting thoughts rise and flow to see where they go is sort of fun. I’ve started using a couple of mantras due to dealing with being sick to help keep my stress more in check, and they do work to calm the monkey mind. My therapist tells me I’m good at being in a situation while also looking down at it. You seem to be on that wavelength as well. There are so many sides to everything!

    • Candy Korman

      YES! It is like that song from The Book of Mormon! So many orthodoxies provide an “entire package” of thought and require adherence.

      Glad to hear that the monkey brain is calmed at the meditation is helping reduce your stress. A very wise man with a good life and difficult neurological disorder (Tourette Syndrome) told me that he uses the 1000 above technique. He “rises” above the problem and looks down on it. It gets smaller and not worth getting crazed. I wish I were better at that, but I am getting better at stepping back or stepping aside or stepping out of the line of fire… I think it’s a benefit of age! LOL… You start to choose NOT to react to everything. Still, I want to think, I want to respond, I want to notice and, if I can, turn it all into stories. No doubt about it——your experience will inspire fiction!