Most of us have busy lives, at least it feels that way. Even if we are not physically rushing around, our mind is.
In our heads are a list of tasks that we feel we need to get through. We may have many concerns about stuff that has happened and worries about things that may happen to ourselves or to others. We rarely stop, even for a moment.
So when you do stop and sit quietly, what happens to your thoughts?
Most people notice that their thoughts are rushing about, mainly in a chaotic fashion. This is often referred to as ‘the monkey mind.’ Our thoughts are jumping from topic to topic, like a monkey swinging from branch to branch. It is reassuring to know that even experienced meditators acknowledge that when they stop and become still their thoughts are usually racing.
One description by Saint Teresa, a 14th Century mystic, who describes her thoughts when trying to meditate, ‘as riding a wild horse that would go anywhere except where you wanted it to go,’ and Plato, the Greek philosopher, who lived in the 4th Century BC, comments, ‘The mind is like a ship in a storm without a captain or navigator where the crew have taken over.’
See Our Thoughts as Clouds
A useful way to deal with the racing chaotic thoughts is to see your thoughts as clouds in the sky. Each thought being one cloud. As it arises, acknowledge it, and let it float past. Then another will appear. Again, acknowledge it and let it pass. The same thought may return several times. Try not to judge the thought or the fact it keeps returning. It is just a thought. The purpose of any meditation practice is not to get rid of our thoughts, but to slow them down.
Practice Slowing Your Thoughts for Just One Minute
If you are at this moment sitting down, stop what you are doing, put down anything you are holding, like a pen, rest your hands on your lap, and be still for just one minute. As the thoughts arise, see them as clouds in the sky, acknowledge them, and let them float pass. After a minute perhaps, the monkey thoughts will have become slower and even have a rest.
Dr Craig Brown