How do I not think?

„I have so much thinking and it bothers me. How do I not think?”

Thats the most common question I get when teaching meditation and mindfulness. The idea of meditation and mindfulness being about „not-thinking” is a bit of a misconception and often I would refer to what my Zen teacher replied many times:

„Thinking is not the problem. That’s just what your brain does, ok? The function of your heart is to pump blood through your body. It does that all by itself. You don’t have to worry about that job. Your brains job is cognitive activity. That’s just what it does and you don’t have to worry about that job either. You just pay attention to what is going on, moment to moment. Without judgement, picking or choosing, liking and disliking. Your only job is to observe and inquire deeply into the question: „Where does this thinking come from?… Who is thinking?… What am I?“

That means your job is always and forever an inside job. Observe the watcher (the thinker) not the object being watched (the thinking). If you really breath deeply into the question, for example “Who is thinking?”, than sooner or later you will encounter, what we call in Zen „Don’t Know Mind“, meaning your mind becomes clear, open and wide. Simply because you don’t know… and by that allowing everything to be as it is, neither liking nor disliking, you return to before thinking and than you act from there. Just do it. From this Don’t Know Mind intuitivly compassionate and clear action can arise.

So it is not about having or not having thinking. It’s the relationship to your thinking that is key here. Just perceive your thinking by paying attention to your breathing, being mindful, paying attention, moment to moment. Start doing the inside job in every given moment, start observing: look deeply within, and inquire where the thinking comes from… who is thinking?

Don’t worry about your thinking. Leave it alone. It’s not even „yours“ anyway. But thats a different story.

If you learn how to leave your thinking alone by paying attention to what is going in this very moment (hint: focus. breath deeply and listen into your given environment), than it will naturally become quieter. Like a machine that runs out of fuel, if you dont refill the tank, your thinking might become quieter and less bothersome, once your start changing your relationship towards the thinking and rather gently observing it with the question than trying to opress it and push it away.

Remember: it’s the relationship to your thinking that causes you suffering, not the thinking itself.