Demystifying Meditation: Understanding Your Thought Stream
Unfortunately, the most common misperception regarding meditation, and frankly why most people never try or continue practicing, is because they think that when they sit down to meditate, there should be no thoughts in the mind. Instead, when someone who has never meditated sits down to meditate for the first time, they are shocked by seeing the intensity of their thought stream. Our untrained minds are loud. For many, this interaction can be frightening. Often, some say, I cannot meditate – there are too many thoughts.
The goal of meditation is not to get rid of thoughts and emotions but to learn
how to move through them without getting stuck.
– Dr. Philippe Goldin
Redefining Your Relationship with Thoughts
It’s important to understand that the mind has no other job than to make thoughts. It’s what the mind does. So just as we get hungry or need to sleep, the mind creates thoughts. It’s our identification with our thoughts that gets us into trouble.
Meditation is not about stopping the thoughts; it’s about developing a new relationship with them and your mind.
By coming back to meditation, we work on slowing down the thoughts and developing an ability to notice the pauses in the thought stream. We can come to a place where thoughts are simply there, and we don’t need to act on them.
Never expect your mind to be free of thoughts just sit down and do it.
In meditation our relationship to our thoughts is as light as “touching a bubble with a feather.”
Meditation Practices and the Path to Inner Stillness
The traditional method to begin this relationship is to simply sit quietly, with your eyes closed, and observe your thoughts. At first, the idea of observing your thoughts can be frightening and seemingly impossible. Our thought stream is usually so intense that it can be overwhelming to witness it in this way. Instead, we are training ourselves in how to not be involved with or attached to our thoughts. The more we observe, the calmer we will feel.
These days, our minds are fragmented, with constant thoughts coming and going without pause. David R. Hawkins M.D. Ph.D calls this “mentalization,” similar to a “disruptive, unruly child who constantly seeks attention.” Hawkins further comments: “The undisciplined mind has an observation commentary or opinion on everything. Who cares? Who asked for it?” Meditation helps us to understand “the source of the flow of mentalization, it can be transcended, revealing the silence out of which thinking-ness arises” (Hawkins 235-236).
Advanced meditators are able to reach a place where the thoughts slow and the experience becomes more of stillness. Thoughts float by more like the feeling of a cloud passing by in the sky rather than a tiger to be reckoned with.
Let your mind spin as much as it wants to: do not try to subdue it. Simply
witness the different thoughts as they arise and subside. No matter what
thoughts and images arise in the mind, be aware that there is no concrete
material from which they are being manifested. They are simply phantasmagoria
of consciousness, and no matter how many worlds of desires, wishes, and positive
and negative thoughts your mind creates, you should realize that they are all
a play of consciousness.
The Gift of Meditation - Connection, Peace, and Calm
Beyond thoughts and beyond the mind is a place of connection, peace, and calm. This is our natural state. We recognize it when we get there because it is a place we have felt and have been to before. But oftentimes, we don’t know when and how. This place is a gift, and is accessible to all of us.
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