Been thinking recently, well, not really thinking, maybe pondering, about brain time. In other words, during the time where I actually have control of what the brain thinks, what types of thoughts are occupying the majority of that time. As James Allen wrote over a hundred years ago in As a Man Thinketh, “we are what we think.” And throughout time, as far back as Socrates, philosophers have been pondering how actual stuff follows thought stuff.
Years ago when I was working in the Middle East, I had a strong desire to learn to play drums. It had been a long time since I played a musical instrument, since high school. When we were young (my sibs and I), my dad surprised us and one day brought home a trombone and baritone. We learned then that he had played baritone in the Marine Corp marching band (when he wasn’t busy being an MP). My mother, and her mother, and my dad’s mother, were all accomplished pianists. There was music in our blood. So my brother and I picked up the instruments and started playing. Bro D got the baritone and I took the trombone. Off we went to lessons.
During several years of lessons, learning to read music and playing took me into high school as an enthusiastic trombone player. Out of seven trombonist in the orchestra I quickly ended up sharing the first trombone position with a couple of upperclassmen (I must have been faking it well). I also played in the marching band and a dance band. The marching band was pretty cool, especially when we did parades as we had a high step march (thigh parallel to ground) so we had a particularly smart look.
Then I started having front teeth problems, i.e., they got chipped and had to be fixed. It became hard to keep pressure on the mouth piece. So for a while, I switched over to cymbals which kept me in the band, but the only real thrill was slamming them together during the end of the Star Bangled Banner when we played during football games.
After that first year of high school, given the teeth problems coupled with the feeling that being in the band was more of a pussy extracurricular (I was wrong), I quit and left playing forever. With one exception. Several years later toward the end of hs, a significant gaggle of guys got together for a talent show. We enlisted a rather large group and called ourselves the Smokey Stovers Fireside Rhythms and Blues Band. It was a spoof, but we were good in our own joking way. We had a sax player, and a string of percussion such as buckets, washboard, spoons and the like. I was the lone trombone player. We didn’t win but the stage time was fun.
When I got to Dubai the urge to play music hit me again. I had to find the time during the week for practice. I found a teacher to get me started. But where in the day could I squeeze out some ‘physical time’ to practice?
To answer that I created a spreadsheet and for two weeks measured what I did for every minute of every day to see how I was spending time and where I might squeeze extra for practice. From the moment I woke up, I measured how much time was I spending in the bathroom, getting dressed, eating, driving to work, etc, etc. There wasn’t much free time left over, but if I cut out some minutes here and there, I could squeeze in a short block of time each day. (which worked until I got to nyc and neighbors complained about the thumping).
Recently I’ve been thinking about the same concept for ‘brain time.’ After all, everything we do and are is a manifestation of our thoughts. Isn’t it? And we control our thoughts. Except for the time spent sleeping, every waking hour our brain is occupied by something that we put there.
If we sleep an average of six or eight hours a day, then for the balance of 16-18 hours of each day, day after day, our brains are occupied by thinking stuff (as Allen puts it). That includes time we are deep into our work or listening to our fellow humans.
A few years ago a book and documentary became popular called The Secret. But it really was and is no secret at all that our thoughts are energy and what predominately fills our brain time will eventually come to pass.
Considering brain time, it helps to differentiate between what is thought vs chatter. As Steven Pressfield says in his manifesto Do The Work, ” most of us rarely have ‘thoughts’ but rather ‘chatter’, what Buddhist monks call monkey-mind.” Chatter being what they call ‘reflexive regurgitation’ of things we’ve heard, seen, read, or done. Where thoughts are “a shifting of consciousness to a witnessing mode, watching thoughts arise.”
Some brain time is thought or chatter replay, reviewing events that have happened (memories), and are mostly better off when they are framed in a way which adds value. Sometime, no small trick. In essence, that is the trick. How to keep brain-time adding value. Like interest in a savings account, what we think about over time has a compounding effect.
It’s not like physical time though, easily measured by filling in a spreadsheet to determine how much time the brain is thinking of certain things for the purpose of eliminating the unnecessary and adding value thought. There is just too damn much chatter, at least in this brain.
Still, it’s valid that we might want to consider what is occupying the majority of our brain-time. Is it our current situation or what’s in front of our face, or things/situations/people out there in front of us? Where we want to be?
At the very least, we could be simply be discharging non-value chatter. What,…”i’m wondering how I got cancer on my tongue base? Forget about it Fred, it happened, no value thinking about it. discharge. Chatter,…..”i really didn’t need this neck dissection.” discharge. And so on…
But more than trying to simply discharge what adds no value, the challenge is consciously filling brain-time with all things constructive, productive, positive, beneficial. It’s not such an easy task, but a worthy one (I chatter). And that’s where meditating may be helpful.
Perhaps I’ll start meditating the next time I prepare a another physical-time spreadsheet to find out where I can squeeze more time in the day to spend doing just that. Meditating,…generating more quality brain time.
If I only had time, for the brain. But the brain will wait. It’s always there. It knows I’ve got other stuff to do.
Don’t start playing head games on me brain. I may begin to question whether spending brain time on this blog is valid. Don’t screw with me señor brain. You are my slave and you’ll do that I think. In the meantime, guide me and help me become stronger so that I can focus you. You’re not really my slave anyhow. I’m yours. You’re just in my head. And I only want to make sure you are making the best use of your time. The best use of your time just may be the best use of my time.