Sometimes during meditation, our thoughts and concentration seem to be at odds. At times no matter how hard we try to concentrate on the breath we still get plagued by streams of thought. Not only but the harder we try to concentrate the more the thoughts increased. Sometimes to the extent that meditation ends up becoming a chore or maybe something that is stressful and anxiety-provoking. As a result, sometimes triggering a self-critical narrative like, “I am not good at meditation might as well give up”.
This not excluding myself as from my personal practice I have gone multiple times through such experience. Furthermore personally, I find that no matter how long you have been meditating it continues to happen.
How can you stop thoughts
Firstly, the most important thing to remember is that meditation is not to have no thoughts. How can the mind/brain whose fundamental nature is to decode the world around us trying to make sense of it, not produce thought?
Let’s reflect on this. So, the fundamental exercise in meditation is to focus on something in our case the breath. For instance, the simple fact that you focus on your breath requires a brain process. That is you cannot focus on your breath if you actually don’t primarily think of doing it and the simple process of continuously observing the breath is within itself a thought, as perception is in our brain.
Awareness of thoughts
Meditation or the foundational aspect of meditation is awareness and to be aware you actually need a processing system that aids us in discerning our experiences in our case our brain. So, meditation is not, not thinking or having no thoughts but, a clarity of perception. The kind of clarity that is both objectively and subjectively aware of one’s thoughts processes and in contact with the fundamental nature of the impermanence of such thoughts, how they arise and fall.
So where does this leave us? How does one tap into this clarity of perception while meditating both at the subjective and objective level…
Through right concentration. Not focusing so hard on the breath that it becomes distressing. To the extent that when we catch ourselves wondering in thoughts, we end up judging ourselves that we can’t focus, therefore we might just give up.
Nor so relaxed that we indiscriminately let every thought pass, or just seeking a sensation of bliss possibly falling asleep in the process.
But right concentration, one which is neither to stressed not too lax but a kind of concentration that is open to the process of awareness in a kind gentle way.
That when we notice that we were lost in remunerative thoughts we acknowledge it with a curious open attitude. Gently stopping and briefly watching the nature of our thoughts. Whether they are wholesome or unwholesome, was there worry or maybe you just caught yourself making a to-do list. And there-after taking a deep breath refreshing our awareness and on the out-breath calling our mind back into our body.
What I personally call sinking into the body with the out-breath.
In conclusion, Putting it simply what we call mindfulness is the sudden momentary awareness that comes through the realization that you are lost in thoughts. So what I personally find helpful is keeping with me the following proposition put forth by Sogyal Rinpoche (2002) and remember who was being more mindful? The monk who nearly has no distraction during his practise or the beginner who gets distracted many times but notices every time and gently brings his mind back? Both of them and none.
What are your thoughts comment below.