Our thoughts are wild horses, running and bucking at random. Teasing novelty, drama, and the need to survive at every turn. Our mind seems more powerful than we are.
“I can’t stop thinking.”
This is what I hear so often as I speak with others about meditation. That they can’t meditate because they’re no good at not thinking. They understand the benefits and appeal of meditation but think it’s simply not for them. Enlightenment is not for this life, they think.
Our thoughts are powerful. It’s intimidating. They’re relentless, especially in times of stress.
When you try to not think, you enter into a world of smoke and mirrors in which you are trying to hide from yourself. It’s like walking along a cliffside, telling yourself to not look down, and then you do. The challenges of working with your mind cannot be solved by thinking thoughts away.
Meditation is a practice of experiencing and accepting what is already happening at this moment.
It’s watching your thoughts unfold as they are. It’s feeling the feelings that exist within you right now, both physical and emotional. It’s experiencing this moment fully, as it is, without judgment or reaction. It’s knowing you are not your thoughts.
“What a liberation to realize that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am. ‘Who am I, then?’ The one who sees that.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
What we need are tools to help us work with our mind, and ultimately, reveal the wonderful benefits of meditation that anyone can achieve anytime.
Why Are We so Sensitive to Our Thoughts?
At their best, the thoughts we have are productive, and allow us to solve complex challenges in life. To create a budget, or shoot a rocket into space. To write a line of code, diagnose a car issue, or figure out a healthy dinner.
At their worst, the thoughts we have are of anxiety, paranoia, disillusionment, and separation. A shitty radio jingle, or the looping playback of a traumatic situation. The reinforcement of how we “should” be. The fear of failing, being alone, or death itself.
It’s no wonder why we are so sensitive to our thoughts.
It’s not just that our minds seemingly can’t slow down. It’s that some of those thoughts just aren’t easy to deal with.
Our thoughts shape our reality. The emotions that stem from those thoughts color our experience. Thoughts thought over and over again create a life equal to the quality of those thoughts. Fearful thinking will create a life of fear. Joyful thinking will create a life of joy.
By simply watching our thoughts, and not engaging with them, we create the space to go beyond our thinking. To connect with a deeper truth and intelligence. From this, peace and natural joy arise within.
Thoughts and emotions become tangible items you can pick up, look at, set down, and move on from. You see both negative and positive thoughts as they truly are.
A vast space of stillness opens, and thinking is no longer the focus of your attention.
Come Back, Over and Over Again.
If one thing is certain, our thoughts are random. And it’s nearly impossible to not get sucked into their novelty or appeal. Even dull thoughts have the power to steal the attention in the silence of the mind.
How do we deal with the distracting nature of thoughts?
The answer is simple. Come back to your focus, over and over again.
Each time you find yourself distracted in thought, gently guide your attention back to your meditation. Back to your breath. Back to the feeling in your body. Back to the words of the guided meditation. Over and over, like the softening waves of the ocean washing up on the beach.
This is the practice of meditation. Not the avoidance of thinking, but instead, the redirection of attention to where peace and stillness can be found.
After a while, your ability to notice and refocus becomes a muscle. Meditation becomes easier and easier over time. The way to stillness becomes a familiar path. Soon, stillness becomes your baseline, and awareness becomes your reality.
Here’s the real trick to making this work: don’t judge yourself when coming back to your focus.
As we correct ourselves in any situation, our tendency is to reprimand ourselves. “Dammit, why can’t I just be present? I can’t even be good at doing nothing.” Maybe that’s an extreme case, but you get the point.
At some unconscious level, we believe that if we use judgment or negativity to correct a behavior, we’re less likely to do it again. Am I right?
The challenge with this reaction is that it creates more thought. And we can’t change thought with thought.
Instead, realize the incredible miracle that takes place.
Something within you notices the distraction. A part of you becomes aware of the thought. An intelligence beyond your thinking mind recognizes the separation from stillness. This is the miracle of consciousness.
By realizing the distraction, you open up the possibility for peace and stillness once again. By making a habit of coming back to your focus, you get beyond the random thought and create a predictable way to find peace and stillness.
This is a tool we can use in confidence to clarify our thinking, understand our reactions to our emotions, and ultimately, improve the quality of our lives.
Stillness and understanding become both your strength and joy in life.
Keep coming back to your focus with kindness. Your thoughts will always be there, trying to figure something out. Meditation is the practice of going beyond those thoughts to reveal deep peace, love, and understanding of what is. 🙏