On letting go of thoughts

When I first began meditating, I tried very hard to empty my mind of thoughts. Because that was the point, right? Once your mind is truly empty, you reach samadhi and are free (whatever that means). But the more I tried to push out my thoughts, the harder they pushed back. Like Newton’s Third Law, each push at a thought led to an equal and opposite pushing back from the thought back into my mind. Then I realized something.

I was putting judgement on having thoughts running through my mind. Thoughts were bad, no thoughts were good.  I was very attached to the idea that I needed to achieve no-thought-ness, and the more I clung onto that idea, the further I was from making it a reality!

But I stuck with it.  Feeling like a single young sapling in a wide open field being whipped around by a storm passing through, I stuck with it. And with practice, time, and varying degrees of patience, I slowly started to let go of my thoughts. Instead of rigidly fighting the storm with my small branches, I relaxed and let the storm bend me instead of break me, knowing that storms come and go, and this one too shall pass.

Thoughts still come during each of my meditation practices. In fact, rarely do I feel a moment of true no-thought-ness. But now, I can let these thoughts go. Instead of seeing my mind as a bucket holding thoughts, I see it as a river, with thoughts flowing through it. When I become aware of a thought, I greet it “hey there, friend” and wave goodbye “see you next time”.

Whether or not you have a regular meditation practice, and even if you’ve never meditated, sitting down for a few minutes can open your eyes to how fluid and evolving your thoughts are.  And over time, you may recognize recurring thought patterns, samskaras, that show up again and again. That means you’re on the right track! Observe, and breathe. Thanks for showing up — see ya next time.

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