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What happens to a thought once it's thought?

I'm having a hard time mixing my understanding of physics and buddhist philosophy to understand what happens to a thought once it's no longer a thought.

Here's how I see it:

  • Assuming the big bang theory is correct, the entire universe derived from a point of a singularity.
  • That point of singularity contained all matter, and our known universe, and therefore our world, contains a fixed quantity of matter/energy.
  • According to the law of conservation of mass, matter and energy can not be created nor destroyed, only converted from one form to another.
  • Thus, the matter and energy that existed eons ago in our world is the only matter or energy that has ever existed, it's just been reshuffled around since then.
  • The dinosaurs that existed millions of years ago existed of matter (cells) and energy (heart, brain, and neuron energies). When a particular dinosaur died, it's matter was converted into energy (either through a carnivore, bacteria, or other), used, and eventually converted back into matter.
  • Thoughts are based on energy, neurons firing within the brain, that came from matter or other energy.
  • Since no matter or energy is wasted, my thoughts have to convert to another form of energy, or to matter.

But, I can't seem to figure out where these thoughts go. Your mind exists based on neurons firing electronic signals between them. That's your energy. When the energy is expended, in the form of passed information between one neuron and another or one brain cell to another, where does that energy go? How is it converted to another form of energy or matter? Either from a physics standpoint or a spiritual buddhist standpoint.

The same occurs in your muscles. You consume matter, convert it to energy, and your muscles expend that energy when you lift your arm up. But you've converted stored energy into kinetic energy, which is released when you drop your arm, or released when you die, or released when you don't use your muscles and they deteriorate. But thoughts are different.

It must be a simple answer, I just don't get it.

So, where do your thoughts go once you've thought them?

Comments

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    I think our thoughts are like stuff you write on a chalkboard.
    You can act on them, keep thinking about them, or erase them.
    And whether you act, think or erase, potential is all that exists.
    Right?

    DhammaDragon
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    The Princeton Global Consciousness Project has some interesting information and data about this. They have measured changes globally when major events have occurred, such as 9/11. I don't think anyone knows, but there is a theory that our thoughts contribute to a global consciousness that actually changes things on the entire planet. I can't say I know or even suggest what I think happens. But I found this project interesting to learn about.
    http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2011/09/06/9-11-and-global-consciousness/

    Morphic Resonance is interesting to read bout as well (and is a topic in many online forums that will be better attempting to explain it than me. lol) It defined as "paranormal" but when considering the data of the Princeton project, it seems it might not be so "paranormal" as initially thought.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    I don't know either, maybe it dissipates as heat energy? There must be some answer via Google.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @specialkayme said:

    So, where do your thoughts go once you've thought them?

    Off the bat.....It looks like you have already answer your own question

    Assuming the big bang theory is correct, the entire universe derived from a point of a singularity.
    That point of singularity contained all matter, and our known universe, and therefore our world, contains a fixed quantity of matter/energy.
    According to the law of conservation of mass, matter and energy can not be created nor destroyed, only converted from one form to another.
    Thus, the matter and energy that existed eons ago in our world is the only matter or energy that has ever existed, it's just been reshuffled around since then.
    The dinosaurs that existed millions of years ago existed of matter (cells) and energy (heart, brain, and neuron energies). When a particular dinosaur died, it's matter was >converted into energy (either through a carnivore, bacteria, or other), used, and eventually converted back into matter.
    Thoughts are based on energy, neurons firing within the brain, that came from matter or other energy.
    Since no matter or energy is wasted, my thoughts have to convert to another form of energy, or to matter.

    The energy used that create a thought is "recycled" unless it is used to reinforce a neuropathway (Sankhara) one of our many habitual behaviour patterns which in turn forms our Thoughts Words & Deeds ...

    However take all this with a pinch of salt, as it's just a thought one of many lying around that I happened to pick up....... :)

    DhammaDragon
  • Steve_BSteve_B Far southwest corner of Indiana, USA Veteran

    @specialkayme said:

    The same occurs in your muscles. You consume matter, convert it to energy, and your muscles expend that energy when you lift your arm up. But you've converted stored energy into kinetic energy, which is released when you drop your arm, or released when you die, or released when you don't use your muscles and they deteriorate. But thoughts are different.

    I don't think it's different. Moving your arm uses energy supplied by oxidation of glucose, phosphorylating adenosine monophosphate to adenosine triphosphate, the "currency" of biological energy. Thinking a thought uses the same kind of energy, supplied the same way. So does the yellow glow of a firefly.

    Thoughts and motions become a force when used together. By combining them, you can build a home. Or a space ship. Or a weapon. You can create a life. Or end one.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    Too much thought, not enough meditation o:)

    lobsterDhammaDragondhammachick
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    What are thoughts for? They seem like a running commentary on experience, but also a means of problem solving. They come and they go.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    The first thought I had while reading this is that I doubt the big bang is the beginning of the universe so much as a function of the universe. If the big bang had a cause it couldn't be the beginning and everything has a cause. That doesn't change any conservation laws though.

    I would imagine thoughts get recycled somehow and could perhaps be used as some kind of fuel.

  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem switzerland Veteran

    The aggregates of feeling, mental formations, consciousness, are not physical, and so are their output.
    You can open your brain or your heart, but you will hardly find any trace left of passing thoughts, memories and feelings.

    The only palpable evidence of where a passing thought has gone to, is in the triggering of emotions it has caused and the enactment of the actions it has impelled in us.
    All formations are transient, subject to dukkha and without a self.
    Speculation on thoughts is interesting, but more relevant is what I choose to do about them.

    wojciech
  • specialkaymespecialkayme Veteran
    edited December 2016

    @Shoshin said:

    The energy used that create a thought is "recycled" unless it is used to reinforce a neuropathway (Sankhara) one of our many habitual behaviour patterns which in turn forms our Thoughts Words & Deeds ...

    Exactly. But recycled into what? I know it can't disappear, but I also can't seem to conceptualize where it goes. As far as I can tell, thoughts don't manifest into matter directly, and I can't see how they manifest into another form of energy. Released as heat energy appears to be the most plausible, but someone who sits and "thinks" for hours on end doesn't get any hotter than someone who has lost all mental functions. Muscles release heat when exercised, but does your brain?

    @Steve_B said:
    Moving your arm uses energy supplied by oxidation of glucose, phosphorylating adenosine monophosphate to adenosine triphosphate, the "currency" of biological energy. Thinking a thought uses the same kind of energy, supplied the same way. So does the yellow glow of a firefly.

    >

    With your muscles, your arm uses energy, phosphorylating adenosine monophosphate to adenosine triphosphate (I'll have to take your word for it here), with by products of "work" and heat. Converting matter and energy into matter and energy.

    Energy (supplied from the oxidation of glucose) + adenosine monophosphate -> adenosine triphosphate + kinetic energy + work energy + heat energy

    But your brain doesn't have the by products of kinetic or work energy, or heat as far as I can tell. So it should look something closer to:

    Energy (supplied from the oxidation of glucose) + adenosine monophosphate -> adenosine triphosphate + "thoughts"

    The adenosine triphosphate can be flushed from your system, correct? In your muscles the kinetic energy, work energy, heat energy can be "used" and removed from the body. Thoughts can be used and forgotten, but where do they go, is the energy from using them removed from your body?

    Assuming your brain works in the same way your bicep does assumes your biceps work in a less efficient system than your brain. It also doesn't necessarily explain the concept of consciousness, thoughts, or memories.

    At least, from my limited point of view.

  • wojciechwojciech the desert Explorer

    Very intriguing question my friend! i am in alignment with @DhammaDragon on this one. i'm not as intrigued with the mystery of where the thoughts go as i am with what is to be done with them.

    Thinking positively inspires me to feel good. Thinking negatively inspires me to feel negative. Both are polarities of the same spectrum, of course, but after all, it is our thinking that inspires action.

    "When we are willing to hold our life questions as mysteries rather than as problems that have to be fixed or solved, we become more comfortable with the creative energy of not knowing." - Narayan Lieenson Grady

    DhammaDragonDavidTravellerperson
  • the mystery of where the thoughts go

    inside (to the brain/heart/mind/ whatever the recycling machine within) for recycling

    what is to be done with them

    when the recycling machine send out the 'new product' (another thought) do not get deluded that thought has something to do with outside
    do not react thinking there is something outside

    to be wise or not to be is in our own hands

    DhammaDragon
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited December 2016

    Well, I'm afraid I'm led back to asking my perpetual and by now maybe monotonous question...

    How conducive to my Practice is knowing an answer to this question?
    What difference will it make to my progress?
    Will it be more or less significant than what I currently do?
    Is there a deep and meaningful purpose to understanding the answer?

    If any of those deserve a negative, I personally would move on and not over-think things.
    WE can get a little too caught up in some kinds of cleverness, sometimes.
    Just my 2 cents. Or whichever equivalent currency you favour.

    KeromeTravellerdhammachickDhammaDragon
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited December 2016

    @specialkayme said:

    Exactly. But recycled into what? I know it can't disappear, but I also can't seem to conceptualize where it goes. As far as I can tell, thoughts don't manifest into matter directly, and I can't see how they manifest into another form of energy. Released as heat energy appears to be the most plausible, but someone who sits and "thinks" for hours on end doesn't get any hotter than someone who has lost all mental functions. Muscles release heat when exercised, but does your brain?

    From what I gather(internal research AKA insight) it's all energy @specialkayme so it's recycled into whatever and wherever it's needs to manifest ....Bearing in 'mind' all is one and one is all...Thoughts continually shape our world...

    Thought itself is the thinker...There is no permanent entity (such as an "I") doing the thinking behind the thought...Just perpetual karmic forces in motion... cause, condition, effect

    Thought itself is the thinker, and we've become "hooked" line and sinker

    But our mind can set us free, if we sit and just let things be

    Which reminds me of this........

    "Awareness is fundamentally non-conceptual-before 'thinking' splits experience into subject and object. It is empty (form is emptiness) and so can contain everything (emptiness is form) including 'thought'. It is boundless..and amazingly it is intrinsically KNOWING!"

    Now none of this may sound right to others (in fact it may sound like a load of gob·ble·de·gook )...But from where "I" sit it makes [non] sense....

    KeromeupekkaTravellerDhammaDragon
  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    I must confess, I've never even remotely considered (pardon the upcoming pun) this line of thought. It hurts my brain even trying to follow this thread - and that's not in a bad way whatsoever.

    I'm a fairly simple Buddhist wannabe. But it's an intruiging concept.

  • Steve_BSteve_B Far southwest corner of Indiana, USA Veteran

    @specialkayme said:

    But your brain doesn't have the by products of kinetic or work energy, or heat as far as I can tell.

    Yes, brain cells and other nerve cells use energy just like muscle cells do, and the byproducts (AMP, phosphate, heat) are the same, as are the byproducts of glucose oxidation (CO2, water). Brain cells need to have a constant supply of fuel to stay alive; they are much more sensitive in this way than any other cells. A brief loss of incoming glucose kills brain cells with terrifying speed. They are very hungry cells.

    The adenosine triphosphate can be flushed from your system, correct?

    ATP gives up its energy to perform a useful service: motion, electrical signals, manufacturing. It becomes AMP, and is recycled over and over by being "recharged" with more phosphate back to ATP. It stays in the system and is constantly charged and discharged, back and forth, AMP and ATP.

    In your muscles the kinetic energy, work energy, heat energy can be "used" and removed from the body.

    Yes, heat and CO2 are constantly removed.

    Thoughts can be used and forgotten, but where do they go, is the energy from using them removed from your body?

    Yes, heat and CO2 are constantly removed. Nerve signals in the brain, thinking; nerve signals in the periphery, conducting information; nerve signals in the heart, operating the clock; all require glucose, all produce waste heat and CO2.

    Assuming your brain works in the same way your bicep does assumes your biceps work in a less efficient system than your brain.

    Chemically it's the same system. Fuel is used to build things like cells and enzymes and hormones. Fuel is used for motion, like a wink or a heartbeat. Fuel is used for nerve signals like listening to music or being annoyed with something posted on new Buddhist.

    It also doesn't necessarily explain the concept of consciousness, thoughts, or memories.

    No, not even a start.
    But probably too much physics for one thread (even though you did specifically ask).

    person
  • What happens to a thought once it's thought?

    What happens before and during the thinking? Neurons or some karmic storage mechanism?

    Quantum mechanics is counter intuitive but very briefly, some aspects of 'particles' do not exist but can come into existence from 'nowhere'. Which does not make sense but is what happens.

    There are many ways that this has been intimated over the years. For example, 'Emptiness is form and form is emptiness' or Ibn Arabi hundreds of years ago suggesting the future of a tree calls into existence the acorn that gives it being.

    In quantum mechanics, the potential of 'being' is only probable or possible due to the capacity to be absent or present in various states ...
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-virtual-particles-rea/

    It does not bear thinking about :scream:

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited December 2016

    @lobster said:

    What happens to a thought once it's thought?

    What happens before and during the thinking? Neurons or some karmic storage mechanism?

    Quantum mechanics is counter intuitive but very briefly, some aspects of 'particles' do not exist but can come into existence from 'nowhere'. Which does not make sense but is what happens.

    There are many ways that this has been intimated over the years. For example, 'Emptiness is form and form is emptiness' or Ibn Arabi hundreds of years ago suggesting the future of a tree calls into existence the acorn that gives it being.

    In quantum mechanics, the potential of 'being' is only probable or possible due to the capacity to be absent or present in various states ...
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-virtual-particles-rea/

    It does not bear thinking about :scream:

    I think the idea that they come from "nowhere" is a god-of-the-gaps answer. We use the word "nowhere" simply because we still don't really understand.

    Used to be that most sources would add "seemingly" before "nowhere" because if they really did come out of non-existence they would be breaking the conservation of energy law.

  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    @genkaku said:
    Where do thoughts go once they have been thought?

    Canada -- anyone knows that. :)

  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    What is this comment trying to say? That Canada takes thoughts from the US? If you know your country and our country well you would know better than that. Maybe your ill informed or maybe I am reading your comment the wrong way

  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    @genkaku said:
    Where do thoughts go once they have been thought?

    Canada -- anyone knows that. :)

    What is this comment trying to say? That Canada takes thoughts from the US? If you know your country and our country well you would know better than that. Maybe your ill informed or maybe I am reading your comment the wrong way

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    @Tigger, you need to understand that we're more light-hearted than deadly serious, around here.

    It was a jokey comment.
    How would anyone do that anyway?

    Lighten up hun, just read up on threads. Loads of kidders and jokers around here, myself included... ;)

  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    I understand, that's why I ended with "maybe I am reading it wrong" in the event I was taking it wrong. Everyone knows that the US makes fun of Canada (and personally that makes no sense to me - unless you don't get our country) so I personally believe a comment like that is inappropriate...kinda like a bad joke from a white person about a black person or visa versa...it may be light hearted but unnecessary. I guess I'll lighten up, sorry I have been arounf mean people most my life so I can sometimes see things worse than they are :-)

  • Will_BakerWill_Baker Vermont Veteran
    edited December 2016

    @specialkayme said:
    I'm having a hard time mixing my understanding of physics and buddhist philosophy to understand what happens to a thought once it's no longer a thought.

    Here's how I see it:

    • Assuming the big bang theory is correct, the entire universe derived from a point of a singularity.
    • That point of singularity contained all matter, and our known universe, and therefore our world, contains a fixed quantity of matter/energy.
    • According to the law of conservation of mass, matter and energy can not be created nor destroyed, only converted from one form to another.
    • Thus, the matter and energy that existed eons ago in our world is the only matter or energy that has ever existed, it's just been reshuffled around since then.
    • The dinosaurs that existed millions of years ago existed of matter (cells) and energy (heart, brain, and neuron energies). When a particular dinosaur died, it's matter was converted into energy (either through a carnivore, bacteria, or other), used, and eventually converted back into matter.
    • Thoughts are based on energy, neurons firing within the brain, that came from matter or other energy.
    • Since no matter or energy is wasted, my thoughts have to convert to another form of energy, or to matter.

    But, I can't seem to figure out where these thoughts go. Your mind exists based on neurons firing electronic signals between them. That's your energy. When the energy is expended, in the form of passed information between one neuron and another or one brain cell to another, where does that energy go? How is it converted to another form of energy or matter? Either from a physics standpoint or a spiritual buddhist standpoint.

    The same occurs in your muscles. You consume matter, convert it to energy, and your muscles expend that energy when you lift your arm up. But you've converted stored energy into kinetic energy, which is released when you drop your arm, or released when you die, or released when you don't use your muscles and they deteriorate. But thoughts are different.

    It must be a simple answer, I just don't get it.

    So, where do your thoughts go once you've thought them?

    -Thoughts are most likely stored in the brain (so long as there isn't damage to the biological hardware)...

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @Tigger, that's part of why I suggested it's a good idea to read a lot, you get to know the personalities of the people posting and know when they are kidding. No one is making fun of Canada or Canadians. It's just a silly answer to a question no one really has the answer to. "These things are fun and fun is good." Dr Seuss.

  • Will_BakerWill_Baker Vermont Veteran

    @karasti said:
    @Tigger, that's part of why I suggested it's a good idea to read a lot, you get to know the personalities of the people posting and know when they are kidding. No one is making fun of Canada or Canadians. It's just a silly answer to a question no one really has the answer to. "These things are fun and fun is good." Dr Seuss.

    -Well, as we've discussed before, some of them do buy milk in bags :-)

    Walker
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    Here, let me help. :)
    Take this as read: We are not malicious or nasty here. I stamp on that from the get-go.

    95% of talk, chat, discussion or banter (including 'serious' topics) is intended to be lighthearted, jovial, jokey and good-natured. The other 4% is serious, dedicated and non-humorous - but it's always polite and appropriate.

    Occasionally - we get the 1% of totally unwarranted, uncalled for, ad hominem, impolite and unnecessary talk, which occasionally borders on rudeness.
    I do my level best to nip that in the bud, prevent it and make sure it doesn't get out of hand or become totally intolerable.

    @genkaku is a Zen monk. He's married, has children and is a very interesting chap. Please trust me when I tell you - he meant it in good-natured jest and intended no 'harm'.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @Will_Baker we put wine in plastic bags into boxes! :lol: I love that they put gravy on french fries and cheese curds. I'm only a 2 hour walk to Canada (in the winter, much longer to drive oddly enough). I'd walk for poutine.

  • Will_BakerWill_Baker Vermont Veteran

    @karasti said:
    @Will_Baker we put wine in plastic bags into boxes! :lol: I love that they put gravy on french fries and cheese curds. I'm only a 2 hour walk to Canada (in the winter, much longer to drive oddly enough). I'd walk for poutine.

    -I live quite close to Canada as well. I enjoy visiting Montreal, and in the summer I can sail my boat to Canada on Lake Champlain. I think highly of the country and its good people. I also work with several french Canadians who have family in Canada and a neighbor on my street where I live is french Canadian.

    Just to be clear, as regards normalcy, I would argue there is no comparison between boxed wine and milk in bags. Just saying... :-)

    karasti
  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran

    I guess I overreacted. bad first impression lol

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Tigger said:
    I guess I overreacted. bad first impression lol

    "Think" nothing of it :) :wink:

    lobster
  • @Tigger said:
    I guess I overreacted. bad first impression lol

    <3 In fact you illustrated in part, where thoughts come from, past experiences and expectations.

    Some of us are aiming towards less thought, less 'mind stuff' to reflect/distort from.

    In the words of my imaginary friend, 'Don't think of a Moose' ...

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    @genkaku is a Zen monk. He's married, has children and is a very interesting chap. Please trust me when I tell you - he meant it in good-natured jest and intended no 'harm'.

    @federica -- While you are right that I intended a giggle with my response, I get edgy when someone refers to me as a "Zen monk." For some time, I was dedicated to Zen practice and I still admire it, but a monk is someone who has jumped through a variety of ritual hoops that would have tripped me up even on my best day. I flunked out of a Zen monastery ... how much more proof does anyone need that "monk" and "moi" do not entirely see eye-to-eye?

    "Student" is closer to the mark, though these days even that seems to be an overstatement: Age will do that for you. :) I remain interested in the uncertainties that human beings feel and am personally convinced that at some point any individual might seek out a format in which to iron the wrinkles. Buddhism is pretty good stuff, I think, but it is the wrinkles that count.

    As to the OP, it seems to me that a follow-up question that has gone unspoken is this: Where do thoughts go once they have been thought in Canada? And the obvious answer from where I sit is ... they go to the United States... anyone knows that. :)

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited December 2016

    Look, I seen a pic of u in a robe. Dat's gud enuff fer me.
    See me in a fevver boa, an u know i iz sexy.

    Sorry, I don't know what came over me just then..... O.o

    Kerome
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    Look, I seen a pic of u in a robe. Dat's gud enuff fer me.

    @federica -- I don't want to beat a dead horse, but I'd also like to put this to rest. In the place where I practiced longest, pretty much everyone wore a robe -- partly because it reduced the eye-candy in the meditation hall and partly because a robe makes the various contortions of meditation easier. The robe did not necessarily imply monk-dom.

    And never forget the "pig in a purple robe." Any dimwit can do it and I am the living proof of that.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited December 2016

    pretty much everyone wore a robe -- partly because it reduced the eye-candy in the meditation hall and partly because a robe makes the various contortions of meditation easier. The robe did not necessarily imply monk-dom.

    Aha ...So should we "Beware of a layman in monk's clothing"

    "I'll make the Dharma great again!"

    :wink:

  • Most of the Chinese way places I resided in had the men wear a cheongsam. It could certainly pass as a robe.

  • The cheongsam for men should not be confused with the cheongsam for women. The cheongsam we used was worn over ones street clothes. Other than our full head of hair one might mistake us for other than laymen.

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