Thinking is different than having thoughts
You’ve probably heard the idea that meditation is somehow about calming your mind down and stopping your thoughts. You’ve probably tried to do that and noticed how impossible it is. This may have led you to feeling discouraged, or like feeling that meditation isn’t for you.
The effort required in meditation is great, and the work we’re doing can be tough, but if we don’t understand exactly what we’re supposed to be doing in this process of quieting the mind, we might be wasting a tremendous amount of effort by focusing on the wrong thing.
Thoughts are really really important. They are a part of us. They are often useful. They’re way more useful than your appendix, or the hair on your arms, things that are part of us that potentially could be taken out or shaved off. We don’t want to get rid of our thoughts, we’d be idiots without them.
On the flipside, though, we rely too much on them. We actually suck at thinking. We start having thoughts, and then we get distracted and start thinking other ones. Or, we have a pattern of thinking that is wrong, and yet we hold on to it obsessively, much to our detriment.
We have painful and intrusive thoughts that we can’t seem to address or deal with. There are just lots of ways in which we are bad thinkers.
My teacher once told me straight out “just quit thinking, quit, give it up.” And I keep trying, and it seems to be ok when I’m able to.
You see, quitting thinking doesn’t mean getting rid of your thoughts. Think about a bicycle wheel spinning as you ride your bike. It’s moving, it’s doing a fine job by itself, do I need to stick my hand in there and start spinning the wheel myself? No, of course not, that would just end up hurting me and I’d be “spinning my wheels” (haha) trying to do something that would be able to manage itself were I to simply get out of the way.
As you progress in your meditation, you will simply learn how to stop over managing your thinking process. You will let thoughts be there, but you won’t have to be the thinker. You let the thoughts sort of think themselves.
Here’s another analogy. A really good boss at work doesn’t involve him or herself in the working of the team too much. The employees don’t like that, they feel micromanaged. Often, even if the boss is trying to make things better, if just makes things worse and gets in the way.
You shouldn’t be the boss of your thoughts, but the gentle loving support that oversees them, makes sure they’re attended to, but mostly lets them come and go as they please. You’ll find they’re way more effective when given their own autonomy.
Meditation is not at all about stopping your thoughts, if anything it’s about letting them be expressed fully. Just sit, and let them be, and they’ll start to follow your lead. They’ll start to follow the lead of your Heart. Whereas when you try to control them, or micromanage them, in a funny ironic twist, you actually end up following them.