- “I can’t stop thinking”
This is probably the most common false premise and concern people have when beginning a meditation practice. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I tried to meditate but I just can’t stop my mind from thinking.” Uhhhhh, you and literally everyone else, ever. This makes me smile every time I hear it and admittedly I had the same ridiculous notion when I first started meditating. So I completely understand. It sounds nice doesn’t it? A break from the constant bombardment of thoughts, what a relief that seems like it would be, right? Studies have estimated that we have an average of around 60,000 thoughts per day! Who wouldn’t want a break from that onslaught?
- “If it’s not stopping thought, what is it?”
The good news and the bad news…no one can stop their thoughts! If you start meditating thinking that you are going to make your mind go blank then you are bound to be frustrated and give up. Period. Meditation is NOT about stopping thought. It never has been and it never will be. Rather than trying to stop your thoughts, it can be helpful to see yourself as a private investigator. You have been hired to investigate the behavior of your mind. The problem is not the 60,000 thoughts each day, the problem is the nature of our relationship with those thoughts. Most of us believe everything we think and we don’t have much of a relationship with the habit pattern of our mind.
- “What mindset should I bring to my meditation practice?”
Imagine going into a meditation session with a curious mindset and that you are just going to “investigate” your mind and see what it does. What do you notice? Do you notice getting caught up in a story or personal narrative of some sort? Is the mind replaying events from previous days or conversations with people? The mind does all sorts of interesting things! What you are learning is the habit pattern of your mind. You are investigating how it operates rather than it simply being a tyrant and running your life, unquestioned or un-examined. The most important thing to understand is that meditation is NOT stopping thought. If you understand that clearly before you begin, you give yourself a chance to cultivate a practice that is good for you and good for others. If you can bring an open curiosity to your practice and watch your mind like a scientist watches their subject. You will be surprised to see what arises. Watch and see for yourself and give yourself a chance to experience the profound benefits of a meditation practice.