Meditation and “Thinking About”

We often consider our mind’s travels while and after we are meditating. What I have noticed is there is a distinct difference between “Thinking” and “Thinking about.” So, many times we are encouraged to “Notice” what comes up in meditation and let it go. Which brings on an interesting observation. In “Noticing” what comes up, where is the line between Noticing and Attaching? And, in the meditative state, what is “letting go?” The theory appears to be that we have some sort of control over what arises in the mind’s eye from moment to moment. I myself do not. Letting go of what? Even if we use the term “Let it pass” we are still dealing with something that is not controllable because we do not have a limiter on thoughts duration. We can move the mind to another thought even if that occurs by thinking that we are thinking. We are still caught in thought. It’s why we focus on the breathing cycle. And, why we don’t notice thought we remain aware of thought, our breathing, our positioning, the sound, sights, smells, and physical sensations of the room. Awareness of is not noting. It is not particularly thinking as we are used to defining it. 

Now we can of course just drift which is not awareness. This means letting all thoughts pass on a continuous stream without actually noting or engaging in any of them. But, I see when that is happening I am engaged in a “head” modality and am not present in my body or the room. I have never found this particularly valuable and it feels a lot like daydreaming to me. Partly because in drifting with thoughts, I do attach and become involved in scenarios and playing out fantasy in my mind. I enter that realm of fantasy and delusion.

Significant to me, is a “return” when I notice I have been away from the present. This is particularly noticeable at the end of a meditation when the timer or bell rings and you notice that you weren’t present. You feel as though you are waking up and you haven’t been sleeping or not sleeping in the classical sense. The question becomes “Who and what was gone from the moment and came back?” My experience is that “Something” returns and re-engages with present awareness.

Noticing, perceiving, and observing mean we have narrowed our field of observation from an inclusive perspective to an exclusive perspective. Once exclusion initiates our conditioned mind tends to lock onto that narrow fragmented field. And, the mind wants information concerning that area of the field. The mind acquires this by looking at past stored information or makes stuff up to fill in the missing information. Labels, concepts, ideas, and observations about the field start to occur. We are then attached to whatever is in our field of awareness. This can happen in a microsecond.

The archaic definition of aware is to watch. Now to be “aware” of thoughts seems entirely useful in a meditative state. We watch them go by like the weather. Now this may seem like it’s a fine line, or nitpicking terminology, but it’s not. To be aware is an inclusive engagement, we are not specifying what we are talking about. So, it’s a Process of Being Aware, not the content of “being aware of” anything. Big difference.

In examination of this I have noticed that there are two “kinds” of thinking that I current access. One is thinking about, the mind notices that my left knee is hurting, and launches into an involved story about what to do about the knee. The other is a label-less thinking that lies in “Awareness of’ or “Watching” but not “Thinking about.” Aware (watching) the knee hurting but not engaged. 

I encourage the latter when meditating. We don’t “Just notice things” and “let them go” as many suggest. Why do that? Why engage and initiate exclusive, wanting to know, mind? We are aware (Watching) of the minds thoughts, images, feelings but we don’t identify them by label nor do we engage by thinking about them. We don’t give the mind time to engage. If we were to lie on our backs and watch clouds rolling through the skies without thinking about them we would have the concept of being aware. As long as the aware is aware of everything. 

To “think about” something is to give the mind time to expand on what ever is in our awareness.

If we start thinking “about” the clouds or what we are doing then we have lost it. This includes that thought “Well I’m just laying here not thinking about clouds.” What we can start to notice (purposely think about) is that second that takes us from “Aware of” to “Thinking about.” It sounds much more difficult that it is. Once the difference is discerned we can start applying that “Aware of” mode in our everyday life.

When someone tries your patience you just watch, when cut off in traffic you watch, when the person at the grocery store has fifty items in the 12 and under express lane you watch and nothing more. No labels, criticism, anger, ideas, or need for revenge needs to be attached. If you hear your conditioned ego arguing about this it might be a good place to examine.

There are so many things that happen in life that we do not have to chase after with thinking. Worry, obsessing about things, playing “what if”, and just meandering. I think the non-verbal awareness is a resting spot and a place to gather and recommit energy. There is not a right and wrong way to do anything, what we are trying to accomplish is to find ways to reduce suffering and the resistance caused by suffering.

I would be interested in hearing how you view the above and what your experience has been concerning the meditative mind.

Be well,




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