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Difference between Knowing and Thinking: My Profound Run

Today I’d like to discuss the importance of being able to differentiate between knowing and thinking. I want to describe a very profound experience I had a few days ago that completely changed the way I see things. It will tie in very well with the rest of the article, in which I will share my thoughts on how to distinguish between knowing and thinking, why it’s important to build on what you know, and how to use the three knowings to achieve anything and everything in life.

My Profound Run

Last week, I decided to go for a run at the local Olympic track. I usually prefer stretching, yoga, and lifting weights at the gym but opted for something different. Before I started running, I asked myself how many laps I’d like to do. 5 seemed too little. So did 10. 20 seemed a little more challenging, but I wanted a real challenge and so opted for 30 laps.

As I began running, the 30 laps seemed like a tall mountain to climb, but I felt really confident I would complete it. This is because I knew that as long as I kept going, one step at a time, the only thing that would stop me is myself. I had a sudden but deep realization that ‘I know I can do it’. As I was running, I had many thoughts arise telling me to stop, to go home, that I was tired, lazy, sore. Every time, I would respond with “I know I can do this”.

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Up until Lap 20, my mind flooded me with thoughts of self-doubt and I would just affirm that “I know I can do it”, sometimes even sprinting a lap to shut down the lazy thoughts. From Lap 20, those thoughts went away and I was able to run peacefully the last 10 laps. As I was approaching Lap 30, I felt really encouraged by my resilience and wanted to test it further. I know I can run another 10 laps. Sure I was tired and sore, but as long as I kept moving one step and a time, I would finish it. What about 20 laps? Yes, I know I can do 20 laps too.

And with that, I decided to do an extra 20, to make it 50 laps in total, or 20 kilometers. The last 20 laps took much longer to complete because I was getting tired and sore, but I just kept reminding myself, ‘I know I can do this’. The entire run ended up taking about 2 and a half hours to complete and I was completely drained by the end of it. But I felt so incredible, like I had proven to myself that when I KNOW, I KNOW. I immediately bowed down and prostrated to the ground three times in reverence to the universe.

Further Challenges

After completing the 50 laps, I was so thrilled with the idea of knowing what I know, that I further tested myself two more times this week. I gave myself another challenge of meditating 3 hours non-stop, something I had never done before. I set an alarm for 3 hours and just sat there, being mindful of the breath, and allowing the plethora of doubtful thoughts arise and pass away. After three hours had passed, I realized the power of knowing.

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The same day, I said to myself that ‘I know I can do 1000 push-ups’, and I just got down and started doing it. 20 minutes later, and 20 sets of 50 reps later, I had completed another task I had never tried before.

Knowing and Thinking

Here is where I’d like to share my thoughts on the difference between knowing and thinking. Knowing is understanding through direct experience while thinking is believing and having faith in an idea or concept that someone else told or that you read somewhere. Knowing is experiential while thinking is conceptual.

During my two years at the monastery as a Buddhist Monk, we learned and studied countless Buddhist texts, philosophical teachings, and spiritual paths and processes. Despite learning so much, we were continually reminded that learning via text and listening is different from learning through experience and direct knowing.

At the time, I didn’t know the difference and would accept everything I read about karma, meditation, cause and effect, as truth. I would then share my learning with others like I knew what I was talking about. My master would tell me that my words, although they were in line with the Dharma, lacked substance and conviction. I never understood their meaning.

Now, four years later, and a lot of reflection, contemplation, and real-life practice later, I feel I am beginning to understand the realm of knowing.

Building on what you know

It is important to realize the difference between knowing and thinking because only then can you create a foundation based on experiential understanding and then build from there. We can learn ideas and concepts from our teachers, but we must transfer that knowledge into direct knowing through experience to truly make it ours.

The Three Knowings

Know what you want

The first knowing is knowing what you want. This serves as a target or destination for your journey and practice. This applies to all areas of life including finance, career, family, spirituality, wealth, and health.

Know how to get there

Once you have decided on a destination, you much develop a road map. Knowing what we want to achieve is not enough. We must also know how to get there. For example, if we want a good family life, what must we do to get it? If we want to be healthier, richer, smarter, more capable, we must have a plan.

Knowing you can do it

Finally, once you have decided on what you want and what you need to do, you must know without a shadow of a doubt, that you can do it. This requires clarity in understanding the process and needs deep contemplation. When you know you can do it, the final step is to also know that you will. This will immediately invite all the doubt and obstructive thoughts to arise and get in your way. These are the obstructions that have been preventing you from achieving your goals in the past and is what you must transcend now.

This is your chance. But now it is different. You know what you want, you know what you must do, and you know that you can do it. If you know these three things with complete certainty, nothing can really get in your way, not even yourself.

Conclusion: Knowing and Thinking

I hope this helps you achieve anything and everything you want in life like it is helping me. When you truly know something, it doesn’t leave any room for chance, doubt, and uncertainty. If there is still doubt, then you don’t truly know yet and only think or believe you know which is infinite times less powerful than knowing. Your job is to work with what you know and to build on it over time. Take control of your time, know what you want, what you must do, and what you can do. Then simply do it and reap the benefits as they come.

If you liked this post, check out my podcast which discusses this exact topic in much more detail.

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