If you’ve been around meditation, you know that the point isn’t to stop thinking. Rather, meditation teaches you how to let those pesky little thoughts go instead of getting absorbed by them. Not to say that your thoughts aren’t important. The question is, more important than what?
Sean Murphy pens this recent Yoga Journal post on how meditation benefits those individuals looking to change their relationship to their thoughts. According to Murphy, who bases his article on personal experience, in meditation, thinking isn’t required as there’s nothing to figure out. The simple practice of awareness is enough. Challenges for everyone occur at the thinking level.
Power of Thought
Most difficulties encountered in sitting practice can be traced back to thinking. Even hindrances such as pain, resistance, and boredom can become manageable once they no longer have the reinforcing power of thought behind them. Any moment of pain is ultimately bearable. What is unbearable is to project the pain into time, to add up how many minutes it has been going on, to wonder how much longer it will last or how much more we can take. To think about time in this way is in itself suffering.
My early experiences with formal practice were similar to anyone else’s: fraught with distraction, lethargy, and pain, as well as a mind that just wouldn’t quit. The basic instruction I received was simple, however far from easy. Take an object of focus-in the beginning this is generally the breath-and return the attention to it any time the mind may wander. When thought intervenes, notice this, acknowledge the thought, consciously release it, and return to the present moment. It is not a failure to find ourselves drawn away from the object of meditation; this is a natural aspect of training the mind. We do not need to strive toward some special state: If all we do for an entire sitting peri- od is notice every time the mind drifts and then return it to the object, this is itself the practice of meditation.
Read more from Murphy on the benefits of meditation here.