Glued to Thoughts
Most of you reading this have spent years in school learning how to use your rational mind for memorizing and problem solving. Taught to depend on our rational mind to navigate life, we spend most of our waking hours absorbed in our private thoughts. But, is this habit of constant thinking really serving us?
My mother used to admonish us children for being “glued to the television”. That concern is amplified by today’s electronic devices as our addiction to “screen time” has exploded. It is so easy to be captivated by the internet with its capacity to grab and distract our attention. And when we emerge from that virtual world, we’re often shocked to discover how many hours we’ve wasted.
I see the lure of screen time as merely an effect of the one primary addiction that impedes most of us: chronic thinking. We consider our capacity for rational thought to be our greatest strength. But what if it is actually distracting and diluting our vital energy in the way that we now recognize computers can do?
If you aren’t convinced that your addiction to thought is a problem, try not thinking for a moment. Try to clear your mind of thought, and you will likely find it an impossible task. You quickly realize that you can’t control where your attention goes.
The perpetual stream of thoughts and images running through our mind grips our attention almost all the time. This realization motivated me to find a way to reclaim control over my own awareness. And this led me to discover meditation.
The Practice of Meditation
Meditation is an ancient practice for interrupting chronic thought and cultivating inner peace and tranquility. It calms and clears the mind so that our thinking becomes more focused and we can use our capacity for rational thought more effectively.
Meditation does not involve beliefs in ideologies, and is not tied to religion. The practice is simply becoming still enough to notice where your attention is in each moment.
As you learn to observe your mind, you realize that your attention is trapped in an endless stream of thoughts. This is why we often feel confined and constricted, our lives seem out of our control, and we’re desperate for freedom and serenity.
Meditation empowers you by giving you agency over the one thing that you can always control - your own attention. The essence of this practice is directing your attention to something that is not thought. This enables you to witness what is going on in your mind, instead of being chronically absorbed in it.
Insight Meditation is a simple technique of repeatedly interrupting thought and directing your attention to the physical sensation of your body breathing. Practicing this with a gentle discipline, you gradually reclaim command of your awareness. When you can consciously choose what you pay attention to, you are freed from compulsive thinking and your inherent sovereignty is restored.