art of pondering

Stop thinking. Start pondering.

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Pondering. I love that word. Though, I think I may be one of only a few people who use it anymore. I don’t just use it, I do it. I ponder. I highly recommend it to all, not just to poets and the idle rich. Instead of letting your mind wander on its own while you are doing something mindless, decide to ponder.

One definition I found that I like: Ponder: inconclusive thinking about a matter. Isn’t that wonderful? Stinkin’ wonderful!

Why should you ponder?

Because it will remind your heart, mind and very soul how to rethink who you are. Bam!

You and I have so many decisions to make. What do you think of this, of that? Trump? Clinton? Paper or plastic? Freeway or backroad? Chemo? Should I stay or should I go? Timmy’s college fund or your IRA? Work or play? Fight to win or keep the peace? Stupid little decisions and monstrous life altering decisions.

At our age, we begin to make these decisions, big and small, through a changing filter of values and priorities. What used to come easily, doesn’t. We get cranky with ourselves, our kids, our bosses and our lovers. Why? Because we aren’t comfy with our comfy knee-jerk reactions anymore. What led us to this place is not going to guide the way ahead. Sorry, it just doesn’t work. I’m suggesting that you learn to ponder as a pre-training exercise to prepare for the thinking and decision making that you have ahead of you. In fact, let’s not call it exercise, that sounds like work. More fitting: Recreational Pondering.

What it means to ponder

Pondering is like wondering and wandering in your mind at the same time. Take a minute to think about that, wondering and wandering. Inconclusive thinking. Taking an idea, like a ball in the palm of your hand, and turning it very slowly to look at all sides without trying to push toward a conclusion. Just pondering. Considering. Daydreaming with some structure.

This does not come naturally. Imagine walking into a clothing store, selecting a variety of items to try on. You saunter* (another favorite word, definition below) into a dressing room to try them all on without any intention of buying anything. You are only interested in trying things on. Expensive things, slutty things, things with ribbons, things with bows, a cowboy hat. No buying. Who the hell does that? We are busy people!

But wouldn’t it be fun! The experience itself would be amusing, interesting and give you some great ideas later when are going to buy. Get it? Instead of trying on clothes, try on some ideas about your life. What if?

How to start pondering

There is an art to pondering. It cannot be rushed or the beauty of pondering just becomes the work of thinking. Thinking usually leads to judging, evaluating, choosing and making decisions. Then the critical negative thoughts arrive. Or, as in our clothes shopping example: actually buying. Sometimes a good ponder will lead to your most creative ideas and an understanding of your thoughts about your life. You open your mind with the curiosity of a child and the personal involvement of an audience member at a play. The marquee reads “What If?”, starring you, but that you is not the writer or director or the critic. You are just along for the ride, watching what your mind creates, listening to the cues, not judging.

Wander. Wonder. What could my life look like if…

  • I was single/married?
  • I had a superpower (make one up that sounds fun)
  • I had the ability to be close friends with anybody I wanted
  • I had one week to live
  • I won the lottery
  • I had no sexual inhibition
  • I was in prison for a year

These are great starting points to let your imagination go crazy on. Ponder it! See it! Remember, this is “inconclusive thinking”. What would be good about this? What would suck about that. What would I do first if this were true? Would it change me? How?

How did pondering lose its shine? We all got too damn busy. “Jill, cancel my 2:30! I need to ponder.” Yeah, not going to happen. But I encourage you to give it a try. I suppose it might be similar to meditation for some, however, you can ponder in the drive-thru at the bank, in the shower or while pulling weeds in the garden. Your pondering can be interrupted without needing to get back in the zone.

You can hang with a good ponder for minutes or days, visiting it as you drive to pick up your dry cleaning and again while you sit with your mother while waiting for her doctor appointment.

Okay, then what?

Then, nothing. Can you believe it? After you work out at the gym for an hour do you ask “Now what do I do with this investment of my time?” NO you don’t. You enjoy the benefits of the workout in innumerable and unidentifiable ways. The same is true for investing (a very low investment, by the way) your time in letting your mind insert some imagination to your life. When you allow your mind to freely explore your place in the world, you will become more open to seeing the possibilities that are right in front of you.

So, give it a try. There is no right or wrong way. Remind your heart, mind and very soul how to rethink who you are. Again, Bam!

I’d love to have you share your comments below!




verb: walk in a slow, relaxed manner, without hurry or effort.

noun: a leisurely stroll.
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