When a train of thought moves down a line of reasoning, we can get to a better place. We leave the past behind us and feel better right now. Our mind is clear to receive leaps of insight, intuitions and ingenious next steps. We face the future with a fresh perspective and look forward to new adventures. In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig tells us this train can only move forward when we lead with unconditioned awareness. The trainloads of conditioning disrupt the progress if they take the lead. He says our thinking ends up in the fields alongside the right of way. I played with his metaphor some more this morning and came up with what follows.
The engine that pulls a train of thought is fueled by curiosity, wonder and innocence. It proceeds by not knowing what to make of whatever lies ahead. The engine remains open to new possibilities and adventures. The engine pulls trainloads of past experience, familiarity and knowledge without the past getting in the way of making progress down the line of reasoning. The train of thought is heading into a terrain of unknowns, uncertainties and mysteries. There's no conclusive evidence to limit what can happen, change easily, or work out for the best.
Emotional baggage puts explosive fuel into the locomotive. The engine gets derailed as it blows up with frustrations, anger, hatred, envy, fears, guilt, self pity or resentments. The trainloads of experience come to a standstill. The carloads of familiarity look down the line of reasoning with convictions, certainties and stereotypes. When another engine comes from behind to clear the line of reasoning, the train of thought gets sidetracked into a foregone conclusion. The reasoning furiously runs in circles and goes nowhere. Pushing a trainload of past experience fails to advance into the future.
Any train of thought can get back on track by restoring our curiosity. When we can proceed with curiosity, innocence and wonder, we're headed down the line of reasoning. We can get to that better place without knowing how to get there or what lies ahead. We simply stay on the track that takes us there.