Living with our thoughts

thought by thought


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.






Happy Thanksgiving Meditation

A ‘Just Sitting’ Meditation


Happy Thanksgiving!  If you are preparing the dinner, waiting for guests, or are just generally stressed on this day, take five and re-center yourself.  It’s ok.  The kids running around, and the dog barking will wait.  The worries of the day can wait too – whatever they are.  Find a quiet space, close the door.  Dim the lights and maybe light a candle.  Create a little sanctuary for yourself.  If you have to, go into the bathroom and lock the door.  Again it’s ok.  You can get back to all the excitement in a few minutes.  If you have  limited time, set a timer.  Try five minutes, or  fifteen if you have it.



Sit in a chair or upright on the floor.  Get comfortable.

Again, be comfortable, for this the most important part of the practice.  If you are not comfortable, rearrange yourself or try sitting someway else.  For example, if sitting on the floor seems too hard, give yourself a break and sit in a chair.  This is “you time”. Enjoy it!

Sit up straight, place your hands on the tops of your thighs with palms pressing downwards.  Your eyes can be open or closed.  If you have lit a candle, you can turn your gaze to it.

Sit in this way for a little while.  Try to keep focused on what is happening with your body.  Notice how all the different parts of you feel.  What do your feet feel like?  What do your legs feel like?  What about your back?  Keep going. Explore your entire body.

As your mind wanders to other things, like the smell of coffee, or the bang from downstairs, gently come back to your practice of noticing the feelings coming from your body.  When your attention drifts, just say to yourself, “noise” and return to your body.  Don’t rush. Start with your toes and end up at the top of your head.  Use this labeling technique for the rest of our sitting meditation.  When something impinges on your quiet time, just label it, “noise” and return.

Now, bring attention to your breath.  Watch the breath as it comes into and out of your body.  Bring all your attention and focus to your breath   Just watch as the air comes in and goes out.  Notice the length of your in breath and the length of your out breath.  Just notice, don’t change it in any way.  This is your natural breath.  As you relax, your breath may become longer and fuller.  It also may not.  It doesn’t matter.  For this time, just notice.  Notice how it comes in, and goes out, and notice if it changes on its own over time.

Finally, let your attention on the breath diminish, and notice just your thoughts.  Watch them as they come into your mind and watch them as they recede.  Like the breath, don’t try to control your thoughts or think in any certain way.  Just watch them.  When one thought recedes and another one comes up, pay attention to this new thought.  Let the old one just fade. Don’t try to stay with any one thought for any time.  When it leaves, it leaves.  Let it go.  Stay with this practice for as long as you like or as long as you have today.   Give yourself the gift of “me time ” even for just a little bit in all of the energy and connections of your celebrations.  I leave you with this poem as you return to your day.


Best Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is here, so our minds have turned

To what time has taught us, to what we’ve learned:

We often focus all our thought

On shiny things we’ve shopped and bought.

We take our pleasure in material things,

Forgetting the pleasure that friendship brings.

If a lot of our stuff just vanished today,

We’d see the foundation of each happy day

Is special relationships, constant and true,

And that’s when our thoughts go directly to you.

We wish you a Thanksgiving you’ll never forget,

Full of love and joy—your best one yet!

Poem by Joanna Fuchs

Happy Thanksgiving!

Meditation for the shortening days


Winter is coming (John Snow)


In New England, it’s really here.  The first snowstorm of the season has arrived – a little too early for most of us. Everyone seems to have forgotten how to drive in the inclement weather.  The panic sets in.  Milk and bread are scarce in the grocery store aisles and yet, by some miracle, shelves are restocked to overflowing capacity by the very next day.


For some the change in weather, from fall to winter, is a time for withdrawal, of going deeper inside, of closing up.  It is a more contemplative time of the year.  The world seems a little darker and perhaps the darkness permeates into our insides.  The earth also seems a little smaller, a little gloomier, as we cocoon ourselves into our homes – waiting for the winter to end and a new spring to come back again.


Nature too has prepared for the changing of the seasons.  The trees have let go of their last leaves, shedding what is no longer needed for the long sleep of winter.  It is much too cold with too little light so the leaves fall, dropping, bit by bit, letting go of the old, and providing a deep covering for the earth that refreshes the soil, and nourishes the roots.


We too have an opportunity to release those things that no longer avail us.  As we prepare to spend more time inside, let us ask ourselves which of our own leaves are we are willing to shed.  What is in our life that is no longer serving us?  What can we let go of?


Ask yourself what have you brought into your cocoon that doesn’t serve your current needs?  Is there something in your life that you are ready to release and let go of?  Are you doing something now that is not in the best interests of the future you?  Is there something that is keeping you from achieving your life goals that you can shed?  What habits are holding you back? What is taking up too much time or space in your life as you wish to live it?


Just as the leaves fall from the tree and serve the tree by blanketing the earth and invigorating the soil, by letting go of what is holding us back, we too can nurture ourselves much more deeply.  By eliminating some of our old habits and ways of thinking that no longer serve us, we help make room for new ways of doing things, creating new growth and gaining new perspectives.


Reflecting on our old habits, and willingly dropping those, which do not serve, helps nurture us.  As these older habits recede into the inner soil of our consciousness they provide the enrichment for new, better-suited practices to take hold.

Yet, the first  buds of spring

tree bud winter

Take a walk outside.  I know it is cold out there but go anyway.  Look deeply – particularly at the branches of the trees.  You may see that the trees have already prepared tiny little buds, waiting for the warmer weather to open and form new leaves for another cycle of life.   The tree is patient, knowing that in time; new leaves inside the buds will help it grow.


Patience is a virtue particularly auspicious in our winter times.  Winter is a good time to renew again and perhaps plant the seeds of inspiration or generate new habits that will allow us to further grow along our path.  Like the tree, cultivating these new habits takes time, so having the patience to create your own new buds in the form of new habits is a commitment to yourself.


Winter is also a good time for creating a new practice; or creating new rituals that will keep us engaged more fully in this quiet time of the year.  Ask yourself, what can I do now?  What am  I not currently dong that would bring me joy?  Why can’t I start doing this new activity, as the days are getting shorter?  Can I prepare as the tree does – growing some small buds in the form of new habits that can blossom and help me grow in my future self?


Perhaps you have been intending on starting a yoga or meditation practice.  The shortening of the days is the perfect time to begin.  No need to wait for the New Year when everyone else starts making his or her resolutions.  If you start going to a studio now, it will be less crowded.  It will feel more fulfilling and help you cultivate your new start.  If you start practicing at home and you keep practicing though the fall and into the winter, you will have developed your practice into a solid habit by the beginning of the year and start the spring of your new journey just a little bit earlier, happier, and more at ease.