This blog is written by Siddharth Mathur, Designated Partner at Lex. Protector LLP. Siddharth is a intellectual property rights practitioner and a prolific blogger who writes on issues of mental health, art and culture.
Not being able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction. But since we are all experiencing the same thing, it is considered normal. Constantly thinking about the future and regretting our past experiences has become the norm. Collective human consciousness is being driven towards a trajectory that is bound to take a downward spiral and therefore it’s very important to understand why that is happening.
As long as we are living with the notion of good and bad in our mind, we will always feel uneasy. The true idea of mindfulness lies in the notion of non-attachment to our thoughts. We must understand that a thought, at an abstract level, is just a thought. Nothing more than that. It is us alone who are responsible for making it more than just a thought. More than what it actually is. Let’s explore it in more detail.
When a thought arises in the mind, there are two possibilities. Either we will get carried away with it and build a new narrative around it, or we will judge it from the eyes of a past experience, or a future experience that has not happened yet. Either way, it’s going to take us away from the present moment. Studies have found that that most of the thoughts we experience are repetitive in nature. Just like those old gramophone records that keep playing in the background over and over. In other words, majority of our thoughts that we come across are not new. We have experienced them before in someway or the other. They have already occurred before and are a part of a repetitive thinking pattern that put us in a loop that gives us either constant agony, or constant ecstasy. But since they both aren’t rooted in this moment, they are nothing but illusions when judged from the eyes of the present. Only retrospectively or only with judgement of time can we say that it’s either good or bad. If rooted in the past, they will bring forth emotions like sadness, repentance or jealousy and if rooted in future, they will bring emotions like fear, worry and anxiety. Even good emotions arising from past experiences or excitement from a future event are essentially illusions as they have no sanctity in the present moment.
So the question is, how can we stop these thoughts so that we can avoid these emotions? Well, the answer is very simple. We can’t stop thoughts. That’s a part of being human. But what we can do, however is that we can observe them by being mindful. No matter how many thoughts you experience in a day, as a human being, it is perfectly possible to stay in the moment and experience thoughts as they come and go. This is exactly what meditation teaches us. By closing our eyes and observing our thought patterns, it makes us mindful of our thoughts, so that when they occur, we are able to let go of the thought and bring our attention back to the present moment. But it is easier said than done. People who have never tried mediation before, may try to give up the idea of mindfulness just because they think it is very difficult or practically impossible. But if you observe this carefully, such judgment of meditation is also a thought derived from either someone else’s experience, or some futuristic projection of a situation where mediation doesn’t works out for you.
1) Mental health is really important! Check out Laura’s story with mental health issues:
Therefore, this is perfectly all right if your meditation sessions are not nice or not as you had imagined. As long as you are aware of an idea, you can let it go and slip back to your meditation practice. Of course, if we try to bring it into action and if we create a story around it, that starts to change that. But in the moment that it arises, it is neither good nor bad. If you can see that and if you can leave that as an experience, you can experience the real sense of freedom at the level of your mind.
We will have more such discourses as we discuss mindfulness in future blogs. As a parting note, an adage from Vietnamese Zen Master Thuong Chieu comes to my mind which goes on like this:
“When we understand how our mind works, our practice becomes easy.”