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Thoughts During Meditation

Many people believe that meditation involves sitting for an inordinate amount of time and making your mind go blank.  They set themselves up for failure because the only time our mind is blank is when we are dead!

Many people make the mistake of thinking that meditation requires them to shut off their thinking or their feelings.  They somehow hear the instructions as meaning that if they are thinking, that is “bad”, and that a “good meditation” is one in which there is little or no thinking.  Thinking is not bad, nor is it even undesirable during meditation.  What matters is whether you are aware of your thoughts and feelings during meditation and how you are in relationship to them.  Trying to suppress them will only result in greater tension and frustration and more problems, not in calmness, insight, clarity and peace.

We are not trying to stop our thoughts as they cascade through the mind.  We are simply making room for them, observing them as thoughts, and letting them be, using the breath as our anchor or “home base” for observing, for reminding us to stay focused and calm.  It might help to keep in mind that the awareness of our thoughts and emotions is the same awareness as the awareness of our breathing.

During meditation, we intentionally treat all our thoughts as if they are of equal value.  As best we can, and with the lightest of touches, we bring awareness to them when they arise, and then we intentionally return our attention to the breath as the primary focus of our attention, regardless of the content of the thought and its emotional charge.  In other words we intentionally practice letting go of each thought that attracts our attention, whether it seems important and insightful or unimportant and trivial.  We just observe them as thoughts, as transient events that appear in the field of our awareness.  We are aware of them because they are here, but we intentionally decline to get caught up in the content of the thoughts during meditation, no matter how meaningful or enticing the content may be for us in any given moment.  Instead, we remind ourselves to see them simply as thoughts, as seemingly independently occurring events in the field of our awareness.

We note the content of our thoughts and their “emotional charge” – in other words, whether they are weak or strong in their power to dominate the mind at that moment.  Then, no matter how charged they may be for us in that moment, and regardless of whether they are primarily pleasant or primarily unpleasant, we intentionally let go of them and refocus on our breathing once again and on the experience of being “in our body” as we sit here.  We repeat this hundreds of thousands of times, millions of times, as necessary.  And it is necessary if we want to:-

  • Become aware of what is going on beneath the surface of our mind and it’s own activities.
  • Understand ourselves better
  • Regulate our behaviour 

Paying attention to our thoughts is one element of practicing mindfulness.  We also practice paying attention to body sensations and emotions.  These three elements, thinking, emotions and body sensations are known as the triangle of awareness

If you are wishing to know more about practicing mindfulness you can contact me to discuss options.  Otherwise read Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn


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