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The One Mistake You’re Making in Meditation

by Michael W. Taft

You’re drifting in a vast spaciousness. Your body feels highly energized and very relaxed at the same time. Time melts into one, long, deliriously eternal moment. You are in your perfect meditation place; the payoff for all your hard practice.

Suddenly a thought comes crashing in. Perhaps a fleeting worry about your partner or child. “Dammit!” you think. “I was there. I was in the sweet spot. And now I’m back to thinking again.” A surge of frustration and defeat floods your body.

You try to let go of it and bring yourself back into that perfect space. But now worrying about the possibility of more thinking is generating more thinking. Your mood shatters, the recriminations begin, and the rest of your sit is a grim endurance slog through a barrage of self-criticism.

That’s a perfect example of how not to meditate. Never get in a fight with your own mind. Many of us believe that thoughts are not supposed to arise in meditation. But this is a mistake.

Thoughts in mindfulness meditation are fine. They are not much different from body sensations or external sights and sounds: just another sensory phenomenon that’s arising. Just another thing happening. Greet any thoughts that come up with love, openness, and acceptance. Allow thoughts to move through your awareness without any impedance: don’t try to stop them, hang onto them, or judge them.

Do not pay attention to the content of the thought. Instead, regard verbal thoughts as nothing more than a mental sound. Your job is just to stay open and uninvolved with the thought, listening to it (or not) as you might to birdsong or the sound of a stream. If, for whatever reason, you cannot resist getting involved with the content, then remain completely open and casual with yourself about it.

The more relaxed, accepting, and non-triggered you can be with thinking, the less thinking will arise over time. It’s a catch-22 that you can use in your favor.

Thinking is not a problem. It’s just the brain doing what the brain does. Relax. Enjoy.


photo by Premasagar Rose


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