‘I cant stop thinking,’ seems to be the main complaint, and obstacle in almost everybody’s meditation practice.
And it’s understandable I suppose. After all, in a culture such as ours where from waking to sleep we’re constantly encouraged to think, in a lifetime of thinking; and where our very survival depends on us thinking, calculating, anticipating, worrying, wanting, chatting and so on ….it would be absolutely insane to expect our mind to suddenly stop just because we’ve sat down to meditate.
In the past, when I first began teaching people how to meditate I used to tell them, ‘Allow the mind to think – accept that it’s there. Just don’t get involved …’
Easy to say, hard to do – I realized very quickly how hard it is for most people to ‘allow the mind to think but not get involved.’ Because, just as thinking is a habitual compulsion so too is our involvement with it. We can’t ignore thinking because in all our life process, we’ve never had to ignore thinking. So we don’t know how to.
So what to do? Well, at this point it’s handy to understand what thinking actually is.
First off – thinking is never the original source of a stream of thinking, if you know what I mean. For sure, we can think about what we’ve thought about, but the original source of the first thought was always something else – a feeling, or an event, or inspiration or an emotion. Thinking always comes after these things – either as reaction, or description, or rationalization, or simply languaging something so we can remember it.
So there is always a ‘source event’ which attracts reactions, memories or information as the original thought, which we then begin thinking about.
And this subconscious ‘auto association’ happens so fast, we think it begins with thinking. But it doesn’t. We feel before we think. We intuit before we think. We perceive before we think … and so on. The thinking, which we assume is the source, is not the original source at all.
Yet still, when we have a problem – with worry or fear or angst – we feel compelled to try and stop the thinking that is coming out of it – largely because thinking is where we spend most of our time, so it’s natural to assume that’s all there is. We forget that thinking always comes after something else.
We think if only we can stop the thinking, then everything that bugs us will stop to – fear, the pain, the angst, the fear and so on. But as I’ve said, all thinking is just ‘auto-associative’ smoke arising from the fire of a more intuitive event – from what we feel, or what has just happened.
So when it comes to meditation, trying to stop thinking is like waving at smoke to try and stop a fire – a total waste of time and energy. Because as long as the causal source is there, the thinking will continue.
To extend the analogy, the way to stop a fire is to ignore the smoke and concentrate on pouring water on the fire.
Whenever we have a problem with thinking we should look past it to where it came from – look at what is causing the thinking, and pay attention to that.
Because as I have said, every stream of thinking comes from a more profound event – and in the closed environment of meditation, that profound event is usually limited to either of two things – a feeling or an emotion.
So try NEVER to struggle with thinking itself – if thinking is so compelling you cannot meditate past it, then go to the source – go to the feeling or emotion it came from and contemplate that, and you will find the thinking will lose it’s power.
- ‘Practical Meditation Audio Course’ – a complete set of meditation lessons to be downloaded as a package of MP3′s