As a meditation teacher people tell me this all the time. They say it in a way that makes it seem they think it’s just them—that’s it’s their unique problem rather than the human condition.
Trying to stop ourselves from thinking is a losing battle. It will just create resistance and agitate the mind even more.
The problem isn’t even our thoughts anyway. It’s our attachment to them. What I mean by that is that we think that we are our thoughts. We think our thoughts must be true. We become enslaved by our thoughts. That’s the problem.
So what meditation does is helps us to recognise the thoughts for what they are. As momentary, fleeting occurrences in our stream of awareness. Once we can see the thoughts for what they are, as objects in our field of awareness, then we can put them into perspective.
Seeing our thoughts (instead of being swept up in them) allows us to detach from them. We can see them and recognise that while they are a part of us, they aren’t us.
What we are is the stream of consciousness in which the thoughts occur. The consciousness is already there. Always in the background. The precursor to any experience. The thoughts just give flavour to that experience. So when we can see the thoughts as transitory, just occupying this moment, then we can recognise their impermanence. We can watch them shift, merge and change while we focus on our stream of consciousness. The trick is to become aware of awareness itself.
In this way we can use our thoughts as a tool to access consciousness. The thoughts become a stepping stone for us to jump into the field of awareness that surrounds, and is behind, each thought.
So there is no need to stop ourselves from thinking. We can use our thoughts to hone our awareness skills. And in doing so we can move beyond thought and into the space behind thoughts.
In this way, thoughts aren’t the problem, we can use them as target practice for our awareness. Continually observing the comings and goings of thoughts in our field of awareness. Then our focus becomes the field of awareness itself and the thoughts naturally dissolve into the background of our awareness. They served their purpose and now that we’ve transcended thought, we can find space through meditation.
The beauty of this method is that it requires no analysis. We just use our own awareness to dissolve thoughts. It happens naturally just through our growing awareness. We don’t have to do anything other than be aware.
When we become aware of our breath, our breathing slows. Not by force but through the observer effect. The simple act of observation slows down our breathing. The same concept applies to our thoughts. Watching the thoughts slows them down. Our growing awareness spaces the thoughts out until the spaces between thoughts are more frequent and last longer than the thoughts themselves.
Author: Monica Deane
Editor: Travis May
Image: elephant archives