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before the thought of wine we taste wine before the thought of You we taste You my heart rejoices returning before love to Love Yes, You, Love
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I can't stop thinking during meditation. The mind just runs on and on.
The mind running on and on is natural, and that is not in itself thinking. Mind in itself is simply that, thought. Yet, thought is not thinking. Few spiritual guides clarify this point and leave others with the impression that the natural state of mind is a blank, an empty mind, so to speak. This can lead to much unnecessary frustration in an effort to shut down the mind.
What's the difference between thought and thinking, then?
The nature of the capacity of mind is to churn out thoughts. You are in for a losing battle if you try to stop that. If you try, that is thinking and thought will only intensify. Thinking is an act upon thought, thinking is, oddly sounding, thinking about thought and, then, thinking thinks on itself, or thinking about thinking. Our lives can become simply that, an ongoing thinking about thinking, like a news commentator not only sharing news but ceaselessly commenting on the news shared. Most persons have no idea of how much they have become like thinking machines, and the surrounding culture encourages this. Descartes' belief defines much of Western culture, in his saying, "I think, therefore I am." He totally missed the truth, "I am, therefore I think." Meditation, the entire Way, is a countercultural, inner revolution.
So, what am I to do, as thought seems to increase in the silence, not decrease, which isn't what I assumed would happen?
Likely, thought is not increasing, you are simply more aware of thoughts, for the silence appears to amplify the inner noise. Yet, if thoughts do increase, that still is not a problem. Thoughts appear and disappear, just as sensations on the body or sounds in the environment do. When you think this is a problem, you are thinking, then it becomes a problem. How you relate with thought in meditation is a teaching in how to relate to it outside meditation. If you simply try to push away thought in meditation, that will create discontinuity between meditation and the rest of your life. You cannot live pushing away thought, or you will always be distracted, ironically.
I've been pushing thoughts away...
You may, in beginning meditation, begin with that negating of thought, to develop inner calm and, also, concentration. Yet, this is a rejection mode of living, like a thought asceticism, and you cannot live well in such denial. Life is affirmation. For example, in Buddhism, you may begin with the paths of negation, Hinayana and, later, Mahayana, but a natural development is to move to a way principally of affirmation, a move from primarily no to primarily yes. This affirmation is represented in such paths as, in Buddhism, Tantra, Vajrayana, Dzogchen, and Mahamudra; and in Vedanta through affirming the one Self, the Atman, of everyone. You shift, in time, to affirmation: I am not saying you need to join another path, however, like those above; this is not, truly, of any path, this is pathless.
What about thoughts that are not good, are bad?
Thought in itself is neutral, simply energy, neither good nor bad, another expression of Life. Thought is neither personal nor not personal, until you make it so. You make it so by thinking on thought, like placing over it a layer of interpretation. When the mind comments on its contents, that is thinking, is analyzing, and that is always arising from the sense of person. In the beyond personal, any interpretation would be spontaneous recognition, not arrived at by analysis, or thinking. Scientists speak of having the emergence of discoveries after ceasing thinking, and retreating into a relaxed posture toward the subject matter. Life gives Itself, but, again, not by us demanding It to. You cannot push Grace to you, pushing means you push Grace away. That is suffering. So, in meditation, do as Lama Thubten Yeshe said, "Slowly, slowly." By this, I mean relax and let the flow proceed, do not push away from yourself or pull to yourself. Life moves, you too with It, for you are Life.
Of course, if a thought keeps arising, especially if it is disturbing to you, that may signify something within that you need to address and resolve.
Then, in meditation, affirming, I let the thoughts continue it seems. Is that so? But, sometimes, the narrative of a particular thought, like a story unfolding, seems to go on and on. I become aware that I have been caught in the story. What do I do when I see this?
Let us take your first question first. Shift from rejecting thought to being aware of thought as thought, without your inner commenting on it, or viewing it as good or bad. Then, in life, you become to do this more naturally. Things are happening, and you are intimate with them, for you are not separating self and other with intrusive interpretations. You see a tree, and you just see the tree, you do not analyze it. This is powerful. You are moving from forming ideas about what is, to being with direct intimacy with what is. Or, we could say, this is a shift from conception to perception. Consider how this relates to our recent sharing on intimacy. You are here to make love with Life, including the particulars that decorate this Life. You cannot make love with Life through thinking, only through unmediated intimacy. Now, an apparently paradoxical move, and a subtle one, is becoming intimate with thinking itself.
As to the second question. Like viewing a movie, a single thought can become an inner narrative. You get so involved in the story, you go to sleep inside it, you wake up, you realize you have been asleep for some time. What to do? Let it go. Letting be often leads to thought dissolving, so not developing into a story. Yet, letting be does not work when the story has captivated attention and put you inside the story and asleep. Then, let it go. Do this gently, with no condemnation. The story is not bad, you are simply practicing being aware, remaining open and awake in no-story, rather than constricted and asleep inside a story. Remember, inside the story, you become the story. You are not a story, you are the witness of the story, of every story. You are even beyond what is called the witness. The witness dissolves in pure Awareness ~ That you are.
So, I'm just to be aware. Yes?
You try to be aware, until you find you cannot maintain awareness. Then, you awaken to the truth that you are awareness, not merely an "I" being aware. Then, you, as awareness, become aware of the "I" as only a thought.
Then, being aware of the "I" is the practice?
Being aware of the "I" as thought, or "I-thought" or "I-sense," means that will, through awareness, dissolve. Like other thoughts and sensations, the "I" is seen to come and go, showing it has no substantial existence at all, but is the fruit of the one Self. The "I" is simply a more subtle thought-sense, primal in nature, than other thought. Look anywhere, you will not find an "I." See how even this primal "I" dances in and out of awareness, while awareness remains; this, too, is the play of the Holy.
Then, who or what am I?
Nothing. No one. Nobody. Or, affirmatively, Unspeakable. You share in the same Nothingness as the Beloved, the Mystery of Mysteries. There is a point beyond which not even a question can arise. There you are.
*Brian Wilcox. 'enjoying a light moment'. Flickr
(C)Brian K. Wilcox, 2019
Quote of Lama Yeshe, derived from Shundo Aoyama. Zen Seeds.
The theme of "Lotus of the Heart" is 'Living in Love beyond Beliefs.' This work is presented by Brian K. Wilcox, of Maine, USA. You can order Brian's book An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, through major online booksellers.