You find yourself in an old library at night with only a candle to keep the place lit. Any sudden movement will cause the flame to flicker, dimming the overall intensity of light, and making the books difficult to read. Therefore you remain still as possible, breathing calmly in order to keep the text clear and vivid.
This analogy may provide additional insight into the nature of clarity. The intellect represents the light by which we reason or piece info together. With concentrated focus the intellect is able to illuminate and make sense of content, but should it falter due to distraction, we can end up with a distorted view. Just as a candle flame quivers in the passing wind, causing the text on the page to appear jumbled, our ability to reason can also be impaired or scattered.
Besides adopting good posture in body and mind, what else can we do to be clear about the things we observe or think about? How about questions? Are they useful in helping us to focus, draw out additional meaning, and locate significant patterns or relationships? Can they assist us in arranging data in a logical manner and bring distinction to vague ideas, in turn making it easier to understand something? They certainly can.
Ideally, that is what questions are for, to attain clarity. In fact, clarification has to be the first primary step of reasoning well, because without it there is no way to reach an authentic view. Whether we are reading a textbook or listening to a lecture, the content has to be grasped if we are to make an appropriate judgement about it.
Here are some questions we can ask to help clarify what is being said. Feel free to change them into your own manner of speaking.
1. Could you say the same thing in another way?
2. Please expand on the implications of such a decision or potential action?
3. What are you trying to say exactly, or what is your main point?
4. Allow me to summarize what you are saying and correct me if I am off?
You can also ask questions while reading: What, how & why, who, when & where are classic touchstones to elucidate and process information. Taking quick notes along the way can also help the mind to remain attentive and focused. There are lots of techniques for clarifying thought, so seek out other methods if something doesn’t work for you. The main thing is to get clear about whatever it is that you are bringing into your mind; seek first to understand.