Author Topic: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts  (Read 12158 times)


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    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: Help needed - Meditation, observing thoughts
« Reply #25 on: February 12, 2010, 11:49:30 PM »
Hey Anubic,

I just wanted to second Matthew's advice. It has always struck me as silly to cultivate awareness of thoughts without strong concentration. Most everyone finds that without a more stable awareness (and quiet mind), thoughts just carry you away.  You're not doing anything "wrong." You're just doing what comes naturally--getting caught up in every thought/image/fantasy/memory that catches your fancy. Learning to keep your awareness on one object (like your breath) will really make things easier.

Ironically, the fastest way to achieve your goal (of observing thoughts) is to let go of the goal.  You need to humbly accept that other more basic skills are needed first. Its like you are trying to play Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, but you've never played the piano before! You've gotta learn some scales, and build up some dexterity.  I'm not going to rehash Matthew's advice, but its what you need to follow.

In my own experience, awareness of thoughts will happen quite naturally as you become more skilled at keeping your awareness on the breath.  Specifically, you will find that as you become adept at quickly returning to the breath (kindly and gently, without self-recrimination), you will become deeply familiar with the fringes of thoughts--where they begin and end. This is the first step to becoming aware of them without being carried away. As you get even more skilled at returning to the breath, you will eventually find that you can stay with the breath as thoughts occasionally emerge and float by in the foreground. You will gain a sense of when a thought is about to bubble-up, like the slightest, subtlest impulse. You will also start to notice that you can peripherally observe thoughts, choosing to stay with them, choosing to merge with them, or choosing to just let them be. It will give you a profound insight into the whole process of identity-construction.

But it all begins with watching the breath. And even more importantly, you should hopefully discover that the above insights are not nearly as significant as the quality of awareness that you cultivate. First and foremost, you want to learn to bring a kind, tolerant, and discerning awareness to whatever you are observing. That is far more enriching and transformative than simply learning to watch the clouds (i.e., thoughts)  float by.
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.


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