If you’re just getting started with meditation one of the most challenging things to get your head around (literally) is learning how to let thoughts pass you by. It’s not that we’re trying to ignore our thoughts, or even trying to stop them from happening. That would be impossible and not particularly healthy.
In meditation we are NOT trying to stop, suppress or block-off thinking, feelings and emotions. Instead, we are attempting to let thoughts go by, through simply changing our relationship to them. The technique is to acknowledge the natural flow of the mind but, as an observer or witness.
This is at the heart of meditation practice.
Witnessing the flow of your mind
Usually what happens is that we don’t even notice single thoughts come up. Then, before you know it, thoughts couple together to create a train that transports us away from where we are and what we are doing. This is the narrative, the voice in your head that is playing out a drama, which seems to be following its own script. It’s exhausting and is often the source of our stress and anxiety.
When we learn to understand the art of letting go of our thinking, watching them pass, we break that mental cycle, noticing two things:
It is natural for thoughts to arise, and;
It is natural for them to gently fall back to the place from which they arose
Witnessing the thought process means to be able to observe the natural flow of the mind, while not being disturbed or distracted. We learn to let the thoughts flow without interfering, shaping or interrupting them in anyway.
This brings a peaceful state of mind, which allows the deeper aspects of meditation to unfold such as:
- A calmer mind – The practice is quite insightful and useful in calming the mind
- Weakened mental habit – The practice gradually weakens the deep mental habit patterns, which are not useful and block you off from your sense of wellbeing
- Increased freedom – The more you can become a witness to your thoughts, the less control those thoughts have over you, increasing your freedom of choice, what you can do and how you see the world
- Progress in meditation – Witnessing prepares you for making everything you do anytime, anywhere a meditation
- Developed patience – Practicing patience with yourself while learning this process is a very good idea
A simple process
Learning to watch thoughts go by starts with an extremely simple process of:
Observing thoughts as they arise
Labeling them as a process
Letting go of any clinging to those thoughts
To begin with though it can seem quite complicated. The answer is to start simply, go to a good teacher and practice regularly. Just as in meditation, we become more aware of our body, breath, senses and surroundings – we also begin to be more aware of our thinking process. This will shift you towards observing your thoughts, as things that rise and fall in and out of your awareness.
And you will be amazed what this simple change of perspective can do for you. With practice, you realise you can be free.
You are something much more.
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