Last updated May, 2016.
It's time for another installment of "Question and Answer Tuesdays!"
This week, we had similar questions from both Stacy and Adam:
"Can you talk more about the line between observing your thoughts and focusing on your breath (or mantra)? Do both happen simultaneously, or, does one stop when the other begins? And, can you elaborate on what you mean by 'observing thoughts'?"
note - the information below assumes a cursory knowledge of meditation; if you are new to the subject, read this post first: What type of meditation do I do? It's so confusing!
When you are meditating, you have an anchor - the two most common are your breath and a mantra.
You focus your attention on the anchor. At some point, you will notice that your attention has wandered and you'll become aware of thoughts. You may notice it immediately, or it may take some time. Regardless, once you notice, simply guide your attention back to the anchor.
note - this is the essence of meditation, which is a dedicated exercise that helps you develop the skill of observing your compulsive mind and non-stop mental noise without getting caught up in it. You then transfer this skill to the rest of your day when you aren't meditating - this is known as "mindfulness."
When you are meditating and you notice thoughts, you may still be partially focused on the anchor. Or, you may have stopped focusing on the anchor altogether. It will usually vary, and you will probably do both many times during any given session.
Regardless, your attention has shifted (either partially or fully) from the anchor to thoughts.
We often use the term "observing," but people sometimes associate an active component - such as analyzing - with it. But, when we talk about observing thoughts and mental noise, it simply points to becoming aware of thoughts and mental noise. It's not indulging or engaging with them in any way.
At times, we use the word "notice," as it doesn't carry the baggage that "observe" does. But, whether you use notice or observe, it's simply becoming aware.
At any given moment, we are in one of two states:
When you become aware - when you notice/observe - you are no longer "lost in thought." You are no longer following your mind down a path that culminates in conditioned behavior and habitual actions/reactions.
What's important to remember is that meditating isn't complicated. Keep it simple - below is what a sample of a meditation session may look like if you are using a mantra:
That's it. Meditation is simply the act of returning your attention to the anchor once you notice it has wandered and you're aware of thoughts.
Do it over and over and over again, and you will begin to distance yourself from the mental noise that usually dominates your daily life.
Address the root cause of your suffering.
Read our most popular articles.
If this article resonated with you, please "Like," "Tweet," or share so others can read it too (thank you)!