If you are overwhelmed by thoughts, relegated to living life under a veil of distraction, you might be tired of techniques that don’t work. A while back we had a new member attend our meditation group. She told me that she had racing thoughts and wanted to quiet her mind. Once we completed the first meditation, she angrily declared that her mind was still racing, and indignantly demanded a fix!
I asked how she knew that her mind was distracted. Did she notice racing thoughts because she followed the instruction and continually returned her focus to her breath?
To which, she responded, Yes.
I replied, the practice is working, you are developing mindfulness.
She never came to another meditation.
While I can’t be responsible for her reaction, I do wish that I had responded differently. It’s clear to me, now, that she was fighting with her mind, exacerbating the problem, making her thoughts more frequent and bothersome. Since her intention was to quiet her mind, each time she had a thought, she became more frustrated. She didn’t feel grateful for noticing the thoughts, which was her first step toward finding relief from her racing mind.
Lost in a forest, would you use a chainsaw to cut your way out?
That’s what we’re doing when we battle our minds to get some peace and quiet. We are fighting with our own thoughts to find a way out of the forest. Why not use your thoughts, as you might use a tree (to climb up) in the forest, to get some perspective?
Let’s drop the chainsaw and find a useful way of dealing with those thoughts.
If you continue reading, you’ll see that you can change your relationship to thoughts. In fact, quieting your racing mind depends on looking at your thoughts differently. It’s an attachment to thoughts, a belief in their importance, a feeling that you are your thoughts, that keep you in bondage.