If possible, make it a habit to discover the essential character of every impression, its effect on the self, and its response to a logical analysis.
What struck me about this particular meditation was the qualifier: if possible. This meditation is about taking apart ideas, perceptions, and beliefs to not only see if they are based in logic but if they benefit you as a person. This meditation is about applying critical thinking skills to your beliefs and impressions of the world and events that are taking place around you.
The reason why if possible is important in this meditation is because there will always be times when you are not able to analyze something. There may be an emotional factor involved, or you might not have all the information you need to make a judgment. You might be impaired because of depression or some other mental health issue that distorts your perception. You might lack confidence in your ability to assess a situation accurately.
Most people do not use critical thinking skills in day to day circumstances, even if they have the basic tools. Sometimes, they do use critical thinking skills but misapply them so that their belief or impression is confirmed instead of questioned. (Remember that one the next time you find your head nodding to some long held stereotype that someone else is expressing. Even if you can apply a stereotype to real life, this does not mean that your stereotype is actually true, it just means you have found what you think are convenient examples that “prove” your stereotype.)
Steps to Critical Thinking
This knowing what the topic or problem is. This is also about knowing what the problem or topic is not.
This is where you are gathering information on the topic.
Knowledge is different from comprehension in the same way that being able to rattle off the dates of historical events is different from being able to explain the underlying reasons for those historical events. This is about understanding why something happened.
At this stage, you have all the information and you understand it. You are now going to do something about the subject. This is listening to two sides of a debate and figuring out a way to create a resolution to the situation or problem being discussed. It is deciding which of two statements are true.
You are now going to test your solution or your answer to see if it is true and works given all of the previous information. This can be very difficult, particularly if you believe that you already know the answer.
This taking the results of what you have figured out based on your analysis and you do something with it.
This is the stage where you are figuring out whether or not your solution worked, or if you need to go back a few steps.