As we meditate, thoughts bubble up. Many people are bothered when this happens, and tell themselves that there’s something wrong or that they’re no good at meditating. But having a lot of thoughts arise is OK. Our minds produce thoughts. It’s natural.
While bubbles in water contain gases, the thought bubbles that arise in the mind contain stories. Sometimes the stories inside these bubbles are emotionally compelling, and we can’t resist sticking our heads inside to see what’s going on. The bubble now surrounds our head like a 3D holographic display, complete with images, sounds, and tactile and other sensory information. And the story we’re witnessing is interactive! We now start playing the role of … Read more »
Once, many years ago, I was meditating—or at least I was supposed to be—and I found myself wondering what the Pali for “Palm Pilot” would be.
I had one of these electronic devices in front of me (if you’re not familiar with this ancient technology, think of it as being a very primitive iPod Touch) because I was leading a retreat and had been reading notes from it. I recognized that this train of thought was a hindrance, and as I wondered why it was happening it occurred to me that it was an expression of playfulness. Could it be, I inquired, that my meditation had been lacking in playfulness? Had it been a bit … Read more »
Earworms are those tunes that get stuck in your head. Sometimes you’ll be meditating and have a favorite song stuck on replay. Sometimes it’s a song you hate. Either way, earworms aren’t very helpful to our meditation practice. In fact they can be so persistent that they drive us nuts!
Over the years I’ve tried a whole bunch of techniques to try to get rid of ear-worms. I’ve tried just listening to the song, accepting its presence and using it as an object of meditation, but songs can be intoxicating and I’ve found that I don’t develop much mindfulness and end up rocking out.
Sometimes I’ve listened to the lyrics closely to see if they’re … Read more »
Michael Taft, The Huffington Post: When I first started meditating, one of the hardest things was trying to stay focused. There were just so many things to do, people to interact with, noises like music or blaring car horns that shattered and upset my nascent meditative vibe. I felt like I was drowning. How could I focus in a sea of constant distraction?
The funny thing is that, more than 30 years later, the distractions are still the same. Sirens wail, the bladder complains, people demand my attention, life is moving along in just the same intense, chaotic, confusing manner. If anything, decades of …
What kinds of things do we get up to when we are meant to be meditating, but have become distracted? Most people will say they “think” or “fantasize,” but that’s not very specific. What kind of thinking is going on? What kinds of desires drive our fantasies?
There are five traditional hindrances to meditation. Speaking very non-technically, what we tend to do when we’re distracted is one of the following:
These are the five hindrances in very non-technical language. Each of them is a form of mental turbulence … Read more »
Becky Mahoney, LimaOhio.com: This morning I was perched on top of a thick wool blanket, straight from the jungles of Chichen Itza, Mexico; legs crossed Indian style, hands on my knees. My palms were facing upward, ready to receive (peace, wisdom, wishes – any old gift will do) and I laughed, out loud. I couldn’t take it anymore. Here I am, not a total newbie to this meditation practice, and it was still happening. My nose itched and I felt like I had to sneeze. My foot fell asleep and I willed it to wake up. It didn’t. Was that smoke I smelled outside? …
One of my students recently commented: “I regularly have to readjust my posture, which slightly changes now and then without my noticing it. These readjustments distract me from focusing on the body/breathing.”
What I suggested was that she might usefully reframe how she was seeing this situation.
If you’re being mindful of your body and making adjustments to your posture, then in a very important way this isn’t distracting you from your body. Making readjustments like this doesn’t even have to take you away from your breathing, since you can maintain awareness of your breathing and make adjustments in your posture in time with the in-breaths and out-breaths. For example if you need to open … Read more »
Some kinds of thinking are helpful in terms of what we’re trying to achieve in the meditation, and some kinds aren’t.
So in mindfulness of breathing the counting (which is a form of thought) is helpful. In lovingkindness practice the phrases that we say (“may you be well,” etc.) are also helpful. And less “programmatic’ thoughts can also be helpful in bringing about greater attentiveness, relaxation, calmness, or other qualities. You can recognize these by their effects.
But generally, most of the thinking we do is concerned with worrying, doubting, arguing, criticizing, yearning, etc., and most of that thinking perceptibly stirs up suffering of one sort or another.
I’d simply suggest looking at what your … Read more »
The other day when I was meditating, I was really beset with thinking for 35 minutes, because of being tired and being overwhelmed at work, and probably also because it was late in the evening. I don’t freak out about that kind of thing, but it did feel like a struggle.
And then for the last five minutes, something really interesting happened. I just gave up — in a very positive way. Out of the blue, I found I just wanted to let the mind rest. And I was able to just sit there, in what seemed like a slightly low energy but calm and content state. It felt absolutely right.
Sometimes these creative impulses … Read more »