Meditation our Incessant Thoughts and Right Concentration

meditation thoughts and concentration

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…

Right concentration

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.

Right concentration in meditation

But through a right concentration in meditation, 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.

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Gunaratana, H. (2011). Mindfulness in plain English (20th anniversary ed.).Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1996). Full catastrophe living: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation. New York, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc.

Rinpoche, S. (2002). The Tibetan book of living and dying (Revised and updated ed.). (P. Gaffney, & A. Harvey, Eds.) New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

Rinpoche, Y. M., & Swanson, E. (2007). The joy of living: Unlocking the secret and science of happiness. New York, NY: Random House Inc.

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6 thoughts on “Meditation our Incessant Thoughts and Right Concentration”

  1. I saw a video of a Buddhist monk say that they call it “the monkey mind” or so when you can’t concentrate and thoughts keep coming to you.

    I wonder if in the West we refer to it as ‘automatic thoughts’.

    Either way, it seems that both Eastern and Western approaches recommend not trying to fight it but just let it be and continue meditating.

    1. Clayton Micallef

      yes its referred to as “the monkey mind” and both eastern and western contemplative practices take similar approaches in dealing with it.

  2. Dude… may I call you dude? This is such good stuff. I find meditation more fun if I follow my thoughts into strange and bizarre places. I am unsure if this is what Ram Dass did for fun, but it is enjoyable for me.

    The point that we are achieving a level of mindfulness by bringing our minds back is a good one.

    Hope you are well.

  3. Great post. As in your summary both the buddhist monk and the beginner are practicing meditation. The tool that will help them get the most benefit is ‘mindfulness’. To observe without judgement and incorporate any gems that come to light.

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