Thinking and Experiencing | Marshall Shen

Thinking and Experiencing

Thinking and Experiencing

Our mind thinks and experiences, but often we are not aware of the difference between them.

Thinking is a mental process that consists of ingesting information, analyzing of the ingested information, and responding based on the analysis. Experiencing is a mental process consisting of allowing information to take in, and observing the in-take information.

Both activities root in human perception, an opinionated reflection of reality but not reality itself. Both serve the foundation of our quality of life. Our experience of life is a continuum of how we feel about life through time.

Thinking and experiencing aren’t mutually exclusive; they both impact and depend on our emotions. As I’m writing out this essay, I’m thinking; specifically, I’m internalizing different thoughts in mind around this subject, analyzing them in my head, and putting my analysis in words. When I analyze which ideas to prioritize, my emotions act as the judge for each thought.

One way we experience is through meditation. In meditation, we get into the state of accepting what’s happening around and inside us. If a thought appears in our head, we let it be. We don’t attempt to analyze any information. We simply accept that “a thought has occurred.” Throughout meditation, different emotions might surface, and we let them be. After meditation, we feel a sense of calm.

While experiencing leads to awareness, thinking leads to reaction or outcome. When we feel happy or angry about something, we are thinking because some analysis in our head leads to a change of emotion. The train of thought starts and sometimes leads to assumptions the deviate from reality. Often, these assumptions lead to thoughts that invoke emotions, even though those assumptions might not reflect the reality of a situation.

We are born with the ability to experience, but we learn to think and forget to experience. When we are little kids, our nature is to explore and to experiment. We play and express ourselves freely, not knowing a larger-than-ourselves scope of condition we have that we call “society.” Our parents start to teach us to be a member of a society, an essential education for living with this larger-than-ourselves scope of the condition. Learning to function in society is crucial and necessary because we are social animals; we survive and thrive as a community. However, the result of such learning is that we start to think more and experience less. As adults, almost all our mental reflections of the world are thinking instead of experiencing.

The effect of “all thinking, no experiencing” is that people don’t enjoy life as it is. Just being alive is a gift and a wonder, however, we have a hard time to sincerely feel that way because our mind is racing with different intakes of information and different analysis going on in our head. We can be walking on the beach with sunshine and breeze while still thinking about our goals - what promotion we want to get, how much more money we want to make, the list goes on. We immerse ourselves in thinking so much that we don’t experience the beauty and wonder of nature that is right in front of us.

I am also in the camp of “all thinking, no experience.” I’m goal-driven, and I enjoy pursuing after my “thinking” - even writing out this essay is an act of my thinking. However, by writing out the difference between thinking and experiencing, I can’t help asking myself - what if I incorporate more experiencing in my life, and how would that change my own reflection of the world?