Day 12 of 30: Thoughts
Thoughts will arise. They will. All the time. It’s what your mind does …
Your mind has been tuned to create types of thoughts that have served humans for hundreds of thousands of years when vigilance, fear, and continual scenario planning were relevant for survival. Our species relied on its brainpower to protect a very fragile organism.
Often that typical human condition is referred to as ‘monkey mind’, being led around by your thoughts. Meditation develops your attention so you have the abilities (1) to notice what arises in the moment and (2) to decide whether or not to give it any focus & energy.
Today the invitation is to build on the foundation of concentration practice to add what is called ‘insight meditation’ to it. The strategy is first to develop skills of concentration, calm, and focus, and then second to start practicing the skillful use of those faculties. If you feel up to it today, here are the details:
- Set your time for 5 minutes of your practice and place your attention on the rising & falling of your belly, same as what we have been doing for the most part up until today.
- Immediately after the first 5 minutes, set your timer for the remainder of the total time for your practice today and now place your attention on your thoughts. As each thought arises and you notice it, choose not to give it any energy. Simply notice it and let it go. To facilitate the letting go of the thought, after noticing it arise, place your attention on the felt sense of breathing for a few breaths, then return your attention to your thoughts.
As you watch your thoughts, pay close attention to a couple of the aspects of your experience:
- Notice how thoughts arise. From where do they come?
- What are the qualities of thoughts as they arise? Do some feel like they grab more of your attention than others? Do some feel more urgent & compelling? The invitation is to notice the qualities of those that do feel more ‘sticky.’
- What happens to a thought when you decide to let it go?
Not all thoughts and emotional experiences are created “equal.” Add to that that each day will be different. Some thoughts may be easy for you to let go. Other thoughts may feel very compelling to you to run with their associations (e.g., what to do, what they mean, etc.). It may take greater investment in concentration practice to have the skills necessary to choose whether or not to pursue the particularly compelling thoughts or the ones related to emotional content.
This focus on watching your thoughts is a new step. I encourage you to to do what you can at this time, on this day, in this state. If you notice any judgments arise when you finish your practice today, notice them also as thoughts. Your judgments are an opportunity for greater awareness and an invitation for self-compassion that might sound like: “I am doing something new. I am trying something different. It feels frustrating. It is natural and normal that it will take some practice.”
Please share what you notice and any other observations in the comments below so everyone can benefit from your experiences. Please raise awareness of this content by sharing it using the social media icons adjacent to it. Please reach out to me if I can support you.
See you tomorrow!
Periodically it will be helpful to turn to a reminder of why are you choosing to invest in meditation. Here is a partial list of benefits…