As an Oxford mis-educated lawyer, I'm meant to 'define my terms'. As a free thinker, I refuse to do so, not out of petulant rebellion, but because too tight a definition limits thought and leads to stereotyping. So I prefer hints and examples.
Re-thinking means becoming more intensely curious about the world around us, and discovering that the solutions to life's problems are right on our back doorstep. For 'back doorstep' read: 'our own mind'.
When an answer suddenly comes to you, we call it a 'eureka'. That's a re-think.
When you realize you've been wrong all along about a belief or a person, that's a re-think.
When a new take on a familiar problem pushes itself into your mind, often against the resistance of usual patterns of thought, that's a re-think.
And when you have an idea that's both a new and better way of perceiving yourself, your purpose, and your role in life... that's an awfully big re-think!
Re-Think is based on the notion that the answers to big problems and dilemmas are already inside us. Where do our ideas come from? Somewhere deep in our minds, from levels that are obscured by the business of busy-ness. We can usefully liken the mind to an ocean: when we are operating on the surface levels of thought, it's like a pebble thrown into the tide with its ripples swiftly swamped by the waves.
But if we learn to operate from the more silent levels of the ocean, our thoughts are more expanded, more purposeful, and influential. This is known from a spiritual angle as, 'Be still and Know that I am God', or 'The Kingdom of Heaven is within you'. Both are injunctions to explore the inner silence of the sea of mind. Sadly, in most major religious thought, the essential practices for reaching this level have been lost by our preference for the outer over the inner: precepts of behavior, social laws, and commandments are given precedence over methods of realizing the inner state that gave rise to paths to God in the first place.
In science, we see the same thing: physics is close to describing the Unified Field from which all manifested creation, the whole of space, time, and the physical 'stuff' of the universe originate. The 80 year-old findings of quantum physics describe an underlying reality that operates according to rules quite different from those operating in the observable, Newtonian world with its fixed laws of velocity and motion.
What has this got to do with the way in which we think? Almost everything: despite the findings of modern physics that all creation is the fluctuation of an underlying field characterized by connectedness, unity, and wholeness, we still see the world as our ancestors did. A divided, fragmented and localized one in which diversity rules over unity, my interests over yours, limitations over the unlimited.
In this way, we are at least 80 years out of date in the way in which we use our brains. No wonder we're under stress! It's as if we're trying to handle a 21st Century world intimately connected by outer technology with a 1920s mind that is still localized and bound by a primitive, parochial outlook.
This disconnection, or rift between inner and outer, can only be remedied by developing an inner technology of consciousness. As Churchill presciently observed, "The Empires of the Future are the empires of the mind." From my experience and research, one of the solutions is meditation, in particular the technique of Transcendental meditation, which allows you to tap the silent depths of your mind's ocean, and then, in everyday life, to feel the influence of this lively silence accompanying you in the activity of life, whether you're rushing for a train or working through a mountain of emails.
This is perhaps the biggest 'rethink' of all: that we can actually change and improve the way our brains operate by an inner experience rather than by external mechanisms and behaviour.
Re-think is about philosophy and plumbing – a great re-think for a mixed degree course! – meaning ideas and practical actions. If I merely reminded you, as in the thoughts above, that solutions lie inside you, it would be just philosophy (and a very short book!). In an age of technology, it's natural to ask for plumbing: the question 'how' as well as 'why'. So Re-think, as a book and this on-line Rethink magazine, contains many different channels, how-to's that allow you to find the answers you need, sleeping or hidden in your own mind.
When you come across an idea in Re-think that strikes a chord, my hope is that it will be a moment of realization: you already intuitively knew this, but there is your thought mirrored. It could be something as apparently trivial as 'take a different route home' or 'buy a new newspaper' (we are what we read), or more difficult, such as 'say yes to your partner' or 'spring clean your beliefs'. Especially those that you haven't held up to the light before.
The language we use to describe creativity is more quantum (and even musical) than classical. We talk above about ideas 'resonating' and use expressions like having 'brainwaves', being 'in tune', 'on the right wavelength', and 'connecting' with fresh thoughts. This is the effect I want re-thinking to have on you: not following a prescribed programme or tedious checklist, but opening up to the answers that are inside you and are applicable and relevant to your unique situation.
Originally published: Wed 26 Apr 2006