A huge misconception when it comes to Meditation is that we get to “Stop thinking”… Be great wouldn’t it, 20 minutes of no thought, like a holiday from the “Lunatic who lives upstairs”, that crazy old’ voice that if left to its own accord would probably have most of us in straight jackets.
And perhaps if we had friends talk to us the way our minds tend to, think it would be a very short friendship indeed.
Throw in the perpetual merry go round, thinking of the past, worrying about the future and concocting realities that rarely – if ever – play out. It is no wonder that for millennia we humans have been searching for a way to stem the tide, build a stable dam so that we can quiet the mind.
Which we can most certainly do, but I do reckon the mind has a bit of a bad wrap and is a misunderstood friend, like that mate that’s always got something to say and forgets to run it through their filter first, great intentions yet the execution is average, to say the least!
Yet the mind truly is an incredible tool, kinda like a scalpel in the hands of a skilled surgeon – lifesaving – yet put that same tool in the hand of a criminal it becomes a pretty scary picture.
Reminds of a wonderful saying/proverb: “The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master”.
Look at all the incredible feats mankind has achieved, take away the mind and thought, and I guess we can unwind all we’ve created as pretty safe to say, notta lot would have got done without it.
Celebrations aside though, it can certainly also be a royal pain in the ass.
So let’s just play with this for a second. A lot of us believe that we are the mind, our thoughts, yeah? That the voice in the head is us?
I know I certainly have spent a lot of my life identifying with this incessant narrative.
Let me throw something to you though, what if your mind was just like your heart, or your hand or an ear. Just a part of the system that makes up your physical vehicle to get around this world we live in.
And believing we are our minds, is akin to believing we are our heartbeat or our hand.
I don’t know of many people that would identify with their hand as who they are. Yet our minds, most of us think that collection of old data, emotions, and images is who we are. Yet most of those are just impressions of a moment that has taken place (or imagined to take place), in which we shape certain beliefs and labels. Remove all those and who are we?
What if our hand had its own voice, would it’s experience be different from the minds, would the narrative change?
I know it seems ludicrous, but if we look at the whole nervous system, why is it any less ludicrous to identify with our thoughts/mind as our sense of self.
As that would also, therefore, imply that if we are not thinking we are in fact not real? Yet we all have had many experiences whereby we are purely experiencing a moment with no thought involved, just the experience. Think of when you are laughing hysterically, most the time, there’s no thought, an intimate moment with a lover (hopefully you’re not thinking….) and so on.
These moments give us glimpses into our sense of being our consciousness the awareness behind the ongoing chatter of the mind. If according to a lot of the great teachers, you behind you.
So taking it a step further, just like the heartbeat, just like a hair growing, or your stomach digesting, these are all activities being played out by that part of the nervous system, it’s their job so to speak. Same as the mind, its job, role, is to have thoughts, it is as involuntary as the heart beating. It just happens without any effort on our end.
Now if we start to see the mind chatter as the same as we would the heartbeat, would we be so disturbed by it?
My imaginary answer: Yes, especially when the thoughts I have to bring me down.
Ah good point, yes if the mind is creating thoughts that disempower us, that is certainly a drain on us. But does it have to be?
What if we just observed these thoughts and did not associate into them? What if we treated the narrative like a movie playing out and we were just watching eating some popcorn as the screen of our mind plays out its story?
If we take that perspective, it loses power, as we are a witness to it, rather than the starring role.
We can then even start to laugh at the absurdity of the chatter when we catch ourselves buying into it.
I believe this is an important step to start to disempower the monkey mind, loses it’s a firm grip on our reality. From there we can gain greater access into those powerful states where we are in focus and absorbed within the present.
So what about when we meditate as we progress do we stop having thoughts?
Well, I can only speak for myself and reporting from the front lines of my meditation experiences, yep, thoughts are still flowing…
Sure I have many moments within my meditation classes whereby there are no thoughts and these are great, but the technique I teach – Vedic Meditation – we learn that the busy meditations (aka, thinking, thinking, thinking) is equally as beneficial.
We learn to just let the nervous system do its dance and if needs to think thoughts we let it, if we need to drift in and out of sleep we let it, if we happen to transcend to a sea of bliss we let it, it’s all part of the delicate dance of the mind/body relationship and beginning to remove the currents of stress riddling our body.
And all that with nonattachment.
We don’t place any power or charge on any experience, and nor the mind when it is busy, we just observe it, let it play out and in doing so remove its stronghold over us.
This, in turn, will start to empower us to start to shift the mind to our friend, not foe and to become the servant and not it’s master.