How to get into the spaces of your brain.
It’s incredible how much importance we give to our thoughts.
It’s a never-ending, flowing river of one thought after the other.
We ceaselessly chase thoughts—”Oh, what was that I was just thinking? It was important…I have to get to the gym…I have to remember”—rewinding out of the present moment to go find a lost thought. And once it’s been found, we often realize, “That wasn’t so important, what was I doing?” as we’re jerked back to reality.
The mind’s job is to think thoughts.
Like that of the heart or the lungs, it’s a 24/7 job, 365 days a year. And just like the heart and the lungs that give us dual benefits in the physical and spiritual realms, so does the mind.
Let me explain: The heart’s physical function is to pump blood, but on a spiritual plane, we all know the vast richness, openness, and beauty of the heart. The same can be said for the lungs via breath. Of course, breathing is a vital physical activity, but where would we find ourselves in meditation—and in life—without the depths of knowing our breath!
Since we often watch both our breath and our heartbeat go by unnoticed, it’s amazing the disproportionate amount of attention we give to our thoughts!
The problem is, living in the mind is a killer. Maybe we choose to live a fast-paced life, going 100 miles an hour as our thoughts fill our minds with chatter. Maybe we choose to spend our lives daydreaming, lazily imagining a faraway place or scenario. Maybe we follow each and every thought with the utmost attention, going deeper into the mind. Or maybe we even choose to party or drink our thoughts away into numbness.
Regardless of which path we choose, it’s a deathtrap.
In each of these modalities, we are wildly missing out on the here and now!
“The mind may accept or deny that you are awareness, but either way it can’t really understand. It cannot comprehend. Thought cannot comprehend what is beyond thought.” ~ Adyashanti
So what is that other function of the mind, the spiritual one, when it’s not engaged in a full-time job thinking thoughts?
Ironically, it’s the space between the thoughts that offers the fertile connective tissue of something we call awareness. We can identify with our awareness when we allow for the flow of thoughts to naturally come and go within the space of awareness with a light touch, while resting in the present moment.
In between each thought there is a space—sometimes just an instant, sometimes longer when we are fully present. Each of us has experienced this to some degree.
We usually recognize this space when we are doing something that truly touches our hearts—like viewing the expanse of the Grand Canyon, playing with a baby, feeling the water in each stroke of a swim, or while standing beneath a waterfall.
What are we creating when we watch our thoughts and let them go? In this time of meditation, we cannot stop our thoughts completely, but we can quiet the mind enough to have them settle into the background while the space of awareness steps forward. Conversely, we can take the leap backward into awareness as our thoughts settle down before us.
In either analogy, it’s in the space of thoughtless moments that awareness is revealed.
And yet, we still believe our thoughts and those of others are the most reliable source of information and learning. We choose our thoughts as the basis for our decision-making. We use our thoughts to mount up evidence that something is “wrong” or “right.”
Imagine for a moment what our political landscape would look like if each member of our government was operating from the spaces between the thoughts rather than the thoughts themselves.
If we actually allowed our vast awareness to dictate how we live our lives and navigate this world, we would be operating from a place of pure presence and, by extension, compassion and understanding. We would be waiting graciously for awareness to reveal what’s next, moment to moment, trusting in our innate wisdom.
It’s my guess that it’s up to each of us to give the world our own contribution—our own awareness.
“Let go of all images in your mind, they come and go and aren’t even generated by you. So why pay so much attention to your imagination when reality is for the realizing right now?” ~ Adyashanti
How to make space for awareness.
The first time I ever got familiar with the spaces between the thoughts, some wonderful teachers told me the mind is so discursive and never-ending with its generation of thoughts that it’s often too difficult at first to experience the space between the thoughts.
So here are some ways into our minds that help us identify our thoughts better and hone our ability to rest in our awareness.
1. Get incredibly familiar and intimate with your thoughts. Start with “noticing” during simple everyday activities, like brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, or taking a shower.
As you do each activity, notice each thought as it comes up and try to return to just the act of brushing your teeth, doing the dishes, or taking a shower. See if you can just do the activity. Focus on just being present with the bristles on the brush, the feeling as it glides from one tooth to another, the roughness along your inner cheek.
2. Get lost in something you love. Draw, go for a bike ride, play the guitar, chant. Watch your thoughts.
Notice the frequency. When you can only feel the music and your fingers dissolve into the strings, see if you find yourself getting lost—what happens there? Are you separate from the music?
3. Meditate. Follow your breath in and out; just breathe and feel the air come in and out. Notice the breath as it enters your nostrils, the temperature on the inhale versus the exhale.
Notice how the breath turns at the top of the inhale and the bottom of the exhale—for it is said that eternity exists at the bottom of the exhale and infinity expands at the top of the inhale.
What will you find there?
For a more extensive meditation instruction, click here.
Author: Karen Schneider
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina