Thinking about Thinking

Thinking about Thinking

I fell off the blogging wagon for a while.  I think it is because I neglected to structure time in my week to sit and think about what I'm thinking about and write thoughts on paper. My initial promise to myself when I began blogging in January of 2015 was to make the blog a place to wonder about stuff - ideas generated at workshops, as I write, and as a result of my interactions. I wasn't going to get bogged down by the fear of being smart or making my writing perfect. I enjoyed blogging for the first several months until I missed the first "deadline" - then, I got anxious and stopped taking time to do it.

Now for round two of blog commitment: commit to sitting quietly - at least a few times each week - to think and write. To begin, I decided to write about thinking! Here's why... In a recent workshop, some participants expressed the challenges of finding time to reflect. Others said that reflection was an uncomfortable practice. And still others said that without reflection, they couldn't do their work. So this week I spent time writing about reflection. And of course, thinking about it. I was all over the map. I've decided to make this blog the first in a series about reflection - or thinking. 

Over the course of the week I explored the definition of thinking and simply let myself think about that. I noticed how much nuance there is in the words we use to describe thinking. 

Thinking means to direct one's mind toward someone or something and to use one's mind actively to form connected ideas. 

I know that most of the time my mind is active but I'm not sure that's thinking. So, based on the dictionary definition, I'm thinking: Busy brain or static-y thinking is different from quiet thinking or intentional thinking. 

When I take time to think with intention I'm looking back at the actions I've taken or those I'm about to take. I consider options - the pros and cons of this or that; the 'what ifs'? Why did this not work so well? Or how come this worked extremely well? I look backward and forward - predict outcomes or potential consequences?

I decided to make a list of words that I use to mean 'think' are:
remember    review        recall        contemplate        wonder
           consider        imagine    conjecture        reason
ponder        reflect        deliberate        meditate    ruminate
    cogitate    mull over    chew over         muse         brood
speculate     question    analyze        figure out      puzzle over

Although these "other words" for thinking pop up when you look for synonyms, they are not simply other words for thinking. Each suggests nuanced actions. And then there's different levels or types of thinking.
•    When I recall something, I'm simply going over the big picture
•    If I begin to describe, I'm adding details. 
•    When I do evaluative thinking, I'm judging and infusing my opinions.
•    If I analyze, I'm questioning why things happened or what could have happened if...
•    Sometimes I weigh one idea against another and compare.
•    If I reflect, I'm reviewing what happened and trying to make sense of it
•    When I question, is it the same as analyzing? 
•    When I'm solving a problem or figuring something out, I'm also thinking.

So my thoughts about thinking this week have been with the depth of the concept to thinking. There's also productive versus unproductive thinking: thinking to learn as compared with going over something endlessly and obsessing which for me is certainly not a good use of time. 

Over the next few weeks I'm planning to give myself permission to pause and think - for a few minutes each day. And over the next few months, my blog will focus on different aspects of thinking and how it relates to the work of teaching and learning. Please let me know your thoughts on thinking! 

The mind is everything. What you think you become. Buddha