You know the standard advice: when you notice during meditation that the mind has been caught up in thinking rather than with paying attention to your present-moment experience, just let go of the thoughts, without judgement, and just come back to the object of the meditation practice. And do that over and over.
But sometimes the thoughts are very persistent, especially if there’s something that’s preoccupying you emotionally. If you’ve been involved in an unresolved conflict, or have unfinished business, or if you’re looking forward to some big event, then it’s natural that your mind is going to turn to that over and over.
Over the years I’ve found a “trick” that helps me to … Read more »
Here’s a meditation tip for you to try. It came to me when I was on retreat a couple of weeks ago. One morning, on the first meditation of the day, I found that my mind was all over the place.
I really needed to calm down my racing thoughts, but I had a hunch that the more I “tried” to do something about them, the more I was going to create more disturbance. In Buddhism we sometimes talk about this as being the task of “catching a feather on a fan,” because more effort equals more disturbance, while a gentle and sensitive effort will get the job done.
As I paid attention to the … Read more »
When I’m talking with people about the Buddhist teaching of non-self (anatta) they often say things like, “But how can you function in daily life without a self?” I usually answer, “Well, how do you function in daily life without a self?” Because Buddhism doesn’t say that we have to lose our selves — it says that we have no selves to lose. The reason we assume we have to lose our selves is because we walk around with the delusion that we do actually have a self in the first place.
So we all go about our daily lives without selves; it’s just that most of us drag around with us a sense that … Read more »
John Alex Murphy, The Province: This past week’s Mindfulness meditation introduced a new way of dealing with difficult thoughts that was radically different and initially quite disconcerting for me.
I should initially mention that this past long-weekend, my family and I went on our first 3-day backpacking trip together in Skagit Valley Provincial Park, a spectacular mountain wilderness area about 200 kilometers east of Vancouver. It’s a beautiful place to spend time in nature. As it turned out, it’s also an exquisite place to meditate.
I was excited to start another new week of my eight-week Mindfulness course. So at the end of our …
John Alex Murphy, The Province: I was blessed with many peaceful meditations, some moments of profound insight and a few fond memories of my Mother during Week 4 of my amazing eight-week mindfulness meditation journey.
This week’s daily practice was comprised of the “Breath and Body” meditation, and “The Three-Minute Breathing Space” meditation. Although this was my second week of practice with these two meditations, I still enjoyed a new and exciting voyage of self-discovery every time I meditated.
My Week 4 practice also included an eight-minute meditation entitled Sounds and Thoughts that proved to be enlightening for me. Let me share with you …
The other day I found myself having one of those odd, but common, daydreams where I was complaining to one friend about another friend. I was telling him about a situation where this third party was emotionally cutting me off. The conversation went on for a minute or so, and then I slipped from my daydream back into a more mindful state and realized that what I was saying wasn’t even close to being true. It was almost totally a fabrication. There was a tiny grain of truth, but the reality was completely different from how I was presenting it. I think what was happening was that I was looking for sympathy by taking a … Read more »
One of my online students wrote:
I find that when a dark thought or uncomfortable feeling comes up during meditation, my habitual reaction is to very quickly label it “thinking” and then return to my breath, which feels very much like I am suppressing my emotions and feelings.
And my reply was: This is a great thing to have learned about yourself. It seems that you innately know, with your inner wisdom, that this kind of suppression isn’t the way you want to live your life, and in fact with mindfulness we should be prepared to give our darker feelings room to breathe — or at least some of them.
That brings up the question … Read more »
‘We act, and positive or negative consequences will follow. Just as our bodies move in the world, our shadow will follow us too. Just as we are born, death will follow too. We cannot escape this law of cause and effect, it is with us in every breath that we take.’
From the new book, Eight Step Recovery: Using the Buddha’s Teaching to Overcome Addiction, Publication date 2014, by Valerie Mason-John (me) and Dr Parambandhu Groves
Speak and you have spoken. As soon as you have spoken your words have been heard.
Think a thought and you are thinking. As soon as you think a thought you have acted, creating grooves in your mind… 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 »
You know when you’re counting your breaths in the Mindfulness of Breathing, and you manage to keep the numbers going continually and follow the sensations of the breathing, but you also have a continuous stream of thoughts going on? You probably get very annoyed by this. But you shouldn’t.
The continuity of awareness that accompanies the counting is valuable, and it’s part of what we call “access concentration,” which is where you’re on the verge of a “flow state” in meditation where everything becomes much easier and distractions fade away. So this “multitasking” stage (noticing the breathing, counting, thinking) is actually a helpful thing. We just need to take it a step further.
What you’re … Read more »