“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. ” – Shakespeare
A common misunderstanding about meditation I often hear is, “I can’t stop thinking” – but thinking is actually a good thing. Our mind’s job is to produce thoughts. And, thoughts are a very important part of the meditation process. The more you try to force them out, the faster the thoughts will rush right back in.
When we meditate we actually need the mind to be distracted in order for us to see the process at work. When we’re focusing on our breath, a mantra, or some other object of our meditation – we need to be able to catch ourselves distracted about the past and the future. We need to observe the fidgeting around and notice wanting to stop the timer. We have to be aware that we’re tired and restless – notice what our mind is doing – and then find a way to come back to our breath, or the object of our meditation.
Understanding and noticing you are having thoughts is a breakthrough in your practice, because you’re beginning to shift your awareness (that internal reference point) from your ego to YOU, your real authentic self.
When we become more aware of our thoughts, we’re able to take a step back, reflect, and learn how to better control our emotions and reactions. We can then choose to come back to our breath and our present moment experience. The result – our internal dialogue naturally starts to slow down and we’re able to relax and sit in the present moment.
We become more aware of our thoughts (both in and out of meditation) and simply observe that internal dialogue, without judging it – good or bad.
Learning to become more aware when our attention has drifted to our thoughts, teaches us to let go of all the drama that surrounds the present moment. We can then respond in a more thoughtful, reflective way.
This is certainly not something that came easily to me. My mind can be distracted with what I have to do, who I have to follow up with, what I’m feeling anxious about today, my family, what’s for dinner, did I leave the iron on, etc… Sometimes it’s very hard for me just to sit and “be” with what IS without wanting it to be different. In these times I will remind myself what Jon Kabat-Zinn likes to say:
“If you are aware of what’s happening, you are doing it right, no matter what’s happening.”
I love that.