What is Thought?

by Christian Kurmann

There are numerous reasons for leaders to focus on short-term profit maximisation: slow growth, shareholder and investor activism, inflation, power of purchase, social turmoil and political instability.



Yet more and more CEOs are managing to train their thoughts on the long-term and deliver a strong performance over decades. Pursuing short-term profit maximisation comes with an obvious yet underestimated risk: it attracts the wrong shareholder and works with the wrong stakeholder, blinding managers to the way the world is. It is time to have a hard look at universities which still accept and teach the principle that the goal of business must be “maximisation of shareholder value”. This outrageous principle raises the spectre of “agency costs” which might be incurred if executives, leaders and the influential upper class league act solely in their own interest for profit, rather than in the interests of principles to create purpose and meaning.

The only safeguard against those profiting – including most faculty deans, corrupt politicians and fickle lobbyists – is aligned to maximise both their interest through commitment to maximise shareholder value and best incentivised by stock options for senior executives. There is plenty of evidence that short-term profit maximisation no longer works, because it simply is not purpose-oriented, as it focuses solely on the ambiguous concept of profit. Further, it can be argued that with ushering in any company, the short-term profit maximisation objective has a considerably reduced edge. And finally, there is absolutely no compulsion of competition for a monopolist. Shouldn’t that be worrisome? At the end of the day, they are all highly overrated.

Executives have all-too-rarely managed to accept themselves the way they are, dealing with their own fears and anxieties. This is the major struggle keeping today’s CEOs awake at night. That is why it is believed that they must be special and regarded differently than the rest of any organisational system.

But aren’t we promoting unequal conditions in such a way that an elite cluster becomes an influential power house within organisational systems, shrewdly promoting globalisation?

This explains why we won’t let go of “old-school leadership”, because we still believe it features solutions that should be able to resolve current challenges in the 21st century. But that is an illusion.


Perhaps we need to better understand the entire structure of how we think, why we think the way we think and how we should think.

We must start questioning the edifice of ideas and prioritise and implement actions that are driven by consciousness rather than thought. We have separated ideas from actions because ideas are always of the past and action is always of the present moment. We are fearful and insecure, so we seek to escape from the present moment, not wanting to be confronted by actions.

We need to consider why decision makers and leaders rely so much on thought, thought being ideas and responses to the accumulated memories in our brain cells. If thought does not lead to continuity of feeling and emotions, both dissolve.

So why is it that in our day-to-day routines, thought has assumed such inordinate importance? Perhaps we need to better understand the entire structure of how we think, why we think the way we think and how we should think. The role of the CEO must be refined so that the leader orchestrates the company culture and becomes the Chief Bonding Officer, cultivating togetherness, community, security, inspiration and creating an environment that is at ease, in balance and resilient. This new leadership requirement cannot be seen or defined by thought.

That is why it becomes a real challenge for many executives and leaders, believing that by seeking higher, further and broader we can actually solve today’s social, cultural, economic and political challenges. But this is an extremely limited way to look at leadership, life and nature.


Comprehending a new leadership requirement is no longer a reality of thought.


That is why there is no need to control thought.

Cultivating awareness requires courage, compassion, consciousness and clarity. Only when there is awareness of the beginning of thought, then there is no contradiction in thought. We must never forget that thought springs from memory, which then becomes the image and reputation of any situation. This creates a systematic separation of the observed thinker by the observer seeking for more experience, more sensation, more euphoria, and more frenzy. It has to come to an ultimate end, and the only way it can be terminated is when we question comparison, expectations and ambition, desire for more, for higher and for further. Refusal to question this comes because we carry pain and sorrow within ourselves and have failed to let go or to forgive. So then we become the victim and carry pain deep within us forever.

As long as we don’t completely understand, realise, explore and deeply feel this, as long as we don’t know intellectually that when we observe, we condition others, we are actually the one who suffers most.

This leads to separation and hence to conflict, increased inequality, a competitive environment and social division, no longer differentiating between realising what should be and what is.

The truth of the matter is that psychological obstacles can never be resolved solely by thought because our thought is never new and therefore never delivers new solutions. That is why we are constantly stuck. Organisation charts constantly change, but the way work is done essentially remains the same. Teams and their employees are distracted from day-to-day activities, individual productivity declines and employees ultimately leave.

So we must learn once again how to observe without thought, as behind thought there is absolutely no feeling.

Behind thought is pleasure and desire for so things to match together.

Is observation without thought, without feeling, energy?

Because energy is dispatched by association, thought, pleasure, desire and time, there is no energy to look for. However, thought must exist for us to function. It is our inner compass. But in the morass of today’s complexity, it is not enough to comprehend.


So what do we do?


The trouble is that in the 21st century things are so complex, fast and harsh that we are truly too overwhelmed to comprehend globalisation. It is that old thought which can no longer solve the enormity of problems with which we are currently sitting. Brand new criteria become overwhelmingly relevant which were never there before: How to be less rational, generating a sense of spirit within an organisation, sharing securities, tackling risks together, cultivating good attitude among teams and employees, and participating in building thought leadership together.


As a thinker, we think our thoughts through habit, through repetition, through copying, which leads to misery and hardship.


This means all that we need to do in the near future within any organisational system has to be grounded in an assessment of not only financial implications, but whether or not it aligns with the moral values and mindful virtues and qualities of any company, bringing the entire organisation closer to realising the purpose of the company.

This requires an understanding of the implications of what companies must do in the broadest possible way and how they are nurturing the good. This also includes penalizing employees for making wrong decisions. It requires internal cohesion of the entire organisation, avoiding disparity between the management and the organisation, because everybody must benefit from the achievement of the entire organisation. As long we believe, we can understand and solve any situation.

By thought, we will always have insufficient resources, time, money, imagination, innovation and creativity and therefore we think they are the only way to solve problems: to increase our devotion to effort and comparison, seeking to know more to better understand where we stand. But that is an illusion. Why? Because words create limitations and thought does too. The mind does not function by words because it has no limitations. As a thinker, we think our thoughts through habit, through repetition, through copying, which leads to misery and hardship.

That is why leadership starts not by thought, but at home. Is it possible that habit is not thoughtlessness? That awareness creates order, but never manner, custom and routine. It is the settled tendencies that bring thoughtfulness.


So how do we become thoughtful?


Thinking is painful. It creates disturbance, leads to opposition and generates a pattern. To think and to feel and to become attentive can lead to the unknown and the unexpected, which creates fear and anxiety with which we were never prepared to deal. Unfortunately such a thought never discovers the known or embraces the unusual and or the other, whether culturally, ethnically, socially or economically different.

That is why we become followers, accepting and integrating within a circle, a group, the organisation or even society, because we don’t have the courage to step out of the comfort zone. Instead we are holding onto something which is no longer providing a purpose of fulfillment or making sense to us, or making us feel safe and secure. In order to understand the matter
of leadership, we must move way beyond thinking.

Because matter and energy are interlinked and play a crucial role (as both exist without the other) the more balance there is between the two, the more resistant and the more active the brain cells are.

We must understand that thought has established this pattern of pleasure, pain and fear and has been functioning inside for thousands of years and cannot break these patterns, because it is driven by habit and security. This is why thought becomes a breeder of duality within any relationship. At the same time, it also accumulates innumerable memories we have had of pleasure and pain.


There is a certain level of aggression within us which gives us joy, but there is also the desire for peace, the desire to be kind, humble, noble and gentle. We need to see thought as memory – the only instrument we have for communication and working.


That also explains why thought is the response to memory which has been accumulated through experience, knowledge, tradition, time and habit. This accumulated background is the sort of thought we react to, and this reaction is what we call ‘thinking’.

But when thought projects itself psychosocially towards the future and the past, it creates fears and anxieties that lead to insecurities and at the same time, pleasure. The mind is made dull and hence numbness is inevitable. How is it therefore possible that we compare in our thinking towards the past and the future, not wanting to accept the current moment of what is?

Executives and CEOs resist change because change brings fear and insecurity. Is this perhaps one of the reasons why most of them take radical actions, because it cannot be stopped psychosocially? Because their fear may never end and thus challenges their inner balance?


On the same note, without thought we cannot make decision.


When this sort of thinking is based on such thinking, this thinking becomes a process of time. This sort of thinking is conditioned and even becomes isolated.

That is why it is interesting to experience, when limited knowledge and belief are essential separating qualities, attitude and virtues. This explains how beliefs never crunch with people, but rather create duality and separation, leading to conflicts.

It makes sense when a decision creates a contradiction, because it is always based on thought and thought always seeks to cultivate inner security. The more thought there is, the more choice, the less we make the right decision. On the same note, without thought we cannot make decision.

As leaders we have surely noticed that when we respond to something totally intuitively, there is little memory. It is because only when we do not respond to a challenge with our whole being that there is conflict, a struggle which creates separation and hence confusion, pleasure and pain. This sort of struggle creates memory, which is added to at any given time by other memories, and it those accumulated memories which respond.

Any response as a result of memory is old and hence always ‘attached’, never free of will. The mind of thought can never come to an end as long as we are in this mind of projecting. That is why freedom of thought cannot actually exist. If we think into the future we feel uncertainty, because if we wouldn’t, why do we feel insecure? When is the mind in a state where it does not ask, when it feels secure, safe, inspired and is at ease, embraced with serenity?

Because we are restless, the mind, together with thought, is first to seek for desire and pleasure to gain security. That is why thought constantly interferes with stillness. That is a problem, because thinking becomes a danger, especially when we think based on pleasure and desire only, believing this gives pleasure. As long as we think, because when we think of the principle of pleasure, there must be also pain and disappointment.

That is why thought never leads to fulfillment or joy, but rather to pain, because it even denies joy and pleasure as it creates a sort of hindrance to beauty, freedom, joy, pleasure and fulfillment. Thought creates separation between ‘what is’ and ‘what could be’ and does not cultivate it. In other words, as long as we are striving to cultivate the desire to nurture the good, the more we are driven by thought and not consciousness. Joy and pleasure are a state of mind and thought cannot create nor feel. That is why the denial of thought never creates joy and pleasure.

Why, when we enter the space of thought that is created around us, is there is no joy and pleasure. Why?

Because it creates duality and hence separation between people leading to agony, fear and anxiety.


Practicing stillness leads to the ending of any toxic space within us.


This stillness such a relationship has a fairly different meaning than any other, because is not driven by thought as it is an open space where one cannot enter at all. It is identified by everything that is in that particular space, as the fear of ‘not being’ is suddenly created by space.

While cultivating stillness, one can dive into an open space where action is inaction.

This literally means that we do not know joy, desire and pleasure because these are driven by thought and not consciousness. This leads to a denial to desire, joy and pleasure as we can’t find these by thought. Naturally, we tend to get overwhelmed by status quo, position, power, image, reputation and title.

Deeply rooted freedom only occurs when we understand it fully, when there is self-awareness and self-knowledge and the cultivation of our inner stillness. Because we are incredibly insecure and at the same time have this enormous capacity to be emphatic, we constantly seek security from thought based on memory. This is the very essence of security.

That is what most minds want: security. To better comprehend it, a total change of human consciousness is needed. That is why thought must operate by driven consciousness and not rationality. It must function naturally and normally. This is why radical change can never operate and be understood by thought. It only functions entirely when there is conflict, because we are constantly driven to form and strengthen our inner security. Hence, thought can only breed conflict because thought is the response of neurological and psychosocial memory.


This influences the way we look at groups, clusters, families, traditions, rituals, habits, values, virtues, societies and even organisations.


Memory of thought is the result of thought. The same thought shows us how we deal with volatility and complexity, which is often driven by rational thoughts. This makes it di cult to transform ourselves to embed ‘emotions’ within the company culture, which eventually should lead to innovation, creativity and imagination. Only then we can cultivate purpose-orientation and an entrepreneurial spirit within an organisation, giving the real competitive advantage.

Only through mindful and conscious thinking can there be comprehension. That is why neither leaders, global decision makers nor a new set of modern values or blueprints can actually bring about this creative understanding. It is solely through our own right e ort that we actually have the right understanding. So, under what circumstances is it possible to find essential understanding? From where must we start discovering what is real, what is true, what is integral? When is there confusion, agony and conflagration? Is it not important to find out for ourselves how to think rightly, about right and wrong, social stability and hostility, or economic and social conditions or even about our relationships and families?

However, when we know how nurturing the good feels, perhaps we will start realising how to live more dynamically, because it creates certainty to cultivate a new and more profound social culture based on self- awareness, togetherness and non-duality.

The good thing is that more and more executives and leaders, a growing cadre of sophisticated business leaders, are expanding their focus beyond merely maximising shareholder value to creating shared value and deeper meaning.

They are building stronger companies and healthier societies, while at the same time making money by reducing their environmental footprint, meeting the needs of low-income populations, and finding innovative, profitable solutions to social problems.

One might expect that such an ‘altruistic’ approach would diminish shareholder returns; instead, it keeps corporate leaders focused on powerful emerging trends and long-term fundamentals of their businesses.


Edvinas Grisinas