It’s amazing what our minds can conjure up. Our thoughts flit and wander from one to another, thinking back to a tender moment, then perhaps drawing out feelings of revenge, rage or anger, bounding to things real, imagined or events that happened or not. Waking from a dream, feelings can arise leaving you in a state of panic thinking something happened to you that didn’t – it was just part of your dream thoughts. The body reacts, and stress is induced.
I like this quote. “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened. ‘ It is usually attributed to Mark Twain but this isn’t the case. No one really knows who actually said it. After all, it sounds like something Mark Twain would say. This attribution to Mark Twain is made up, not real, part of our group collective consciousness. Part of our attempt to attach meanings to everything in the world.
In our day to day, we seem drawn to grab onto thoughts and let them take us wherever they may go. The mind wanders again and again. When the power of the present thought recedes, we take flight on another, then another. The mind seems never to be still. We worry when the mind goes off this way, sometimes willing our mind to return to the old thought and patterns of thinking.
This is where a meditation practice can help by embracing this property of jumping from thought to thought. For this practice, we practice going for the ride, not trying to exert control. By allowing our minds to go where they may, watching the thoughts in our minds come and recede, and practicing letting go of trying to hold onto them and attach meanings, we practice non-attachment.
It can help us reclaim a sense of calm when we realize we don’t have to control each and every thought that arises. We don’t have to attach any importance to one thought over another. Whenever a thought takes us on a flight of fancy, we just notice what the thought has become, notice that our mind has moved on, and focus on the new thought. When we need to recenter ourselves, we return our attention to our breath, living in the experience of just breathing one breath at a time. No judgment, no interpretation on what the last thought meant, even if it is from a dream, just let the mind be.
The next time you approach your meditation practice, try meditating in this way. Stay open to whatever comes up. Just notice. Don’t label. You can focus your attention to the feelings that come up when you have a particular thought. Don’t try to analyze, just observe, and when your mine wanders off, let it wander. No control. Let go of the old thought and turn your attention to the new one. You don’t have to feel bad that your mind has wandered, just let your awareness go to the next thought. Breathe in. Breathe out. Moment by moment let your mind focus on whatever comes up.