Miguel Rodriguez
Photos by Judy Li

More than likely, you have spent some quality time sitting down and contemplating something fascinating. Whether it be the meaning of life or a specific obsession, we’ve all spent a few moments lounging with our thoughts, and sometimes you feel the need to share these musings in discussion.

Enter: Thought Lounge, a nonprofit organization with the intention of bringing people together and having them discuss the topics at the forefront of their minds. Thought Lounge was created and brought to the University of California, Santa Barbara by Axel Cramer, a student at UC Berkeley, who shared his reasoning behind creating TL in an interview with the Daily Cal: “I realized every single person at Cal, and anywhere, has at least 12 minutes of material that can blow your mind, so I wanted to talk about it with anybody, not just people I knew.”

Each TL session can be hosted by anyone who volunteers and is up for the task. Hosts vary from place to place, but their job remains the same: to foster an environment where the group can talk comfortably and openly with one another, and keep the conversation flowing.

So what exactly happens in TL? Well, a group of three to six people, plus one host, gather and find a place where they can sit and talk. The host opens up the floor with the one-breath ritual, where in the span of one breath you express how you feel and why you came to TL. Each person does this once, the host reads off the basic rules, and then the real fun begins.

Attendees are each expected to bring one topic to the metaphorical table and lead an open discussion about that topic for about 12 minutes. While the topics can be quite heavy, anything goes so long as you are passionate about it. The most recent TL session had a topic involving the essence of a relationship and whether or not free will exists. A person in the same session also had a question about what gift to get his girlfriend (Pro tip: memories last forever).

Miguel Rodriguez engages in a dialogue about social media while Lacey Smith, fifth year Spanish major, and Cameron Speltz, third year mathematical sciences major, listen on.

Within the first few minutes of talking, it becomes apparent that the people you’re surrounded by are passionate about their topic. This passion is infectious, quickly spreading to all the participants, and before you know it you’re sucked into this vortex of deep talking and great thinking. You will have thoughts that you never imagined you were capable of thinking, and it’s an uplifting experience simply listening in to how people convey their thought processes and conclusions.

What makes Thought Lounge so unique compared to other Socratic-seminar type discussions is how relaxed it is — there’s no pressure to sound smart or even remotely logical. You aren’t at Thought Lounge to hash out your essay or cite sources; you are there to talk about things the way you want to talk about them. Even though most people enter the meetings as strangers, TL tends to bring people closer together through opening each other up. By the end of the meeting, you can’t help but feel a sense of camaraderie, and almost friendship, with the people who just 60 minutes ago didn’t even exist to you.

Essentially, Thought Lounge provides a triad of benefits. First, it relaxes you by immersing you in a soothing environment. Second, it creates connections between people, ideas or a combination of both. Third, and arguably most important, it opens your mind. What Thought Lounge does best is unclog the mind of any social norms restricting the flow of thought, allowing a waterfall of ideas to lead you to participate in a unique and satisfying discussion.

Give it a thought. You’ll be surprised.