Mindfulness: Thinking…..Another Common Misconception
As the misconceptions about mindfulness continue to mount another instance comes to my attention. The need to stop thinking in order to successfully practice mindfulness is an age old misunderstanding.
Perhaps this has become a misunderstanding because so many of us experience constant sometimes compulsive thinking and it wears us down. Many of the people I teach have as their main goal of mindfulness the ability to stop thinking. To compound the issue it turns out that those of us who experience “excessive” thinking also complain that a lot of it is negative.
First let me say that mindfulness has nothing to do with stopping thinking. It merely involves being present and attentive to thoughts that are there. Excessive thinking usually involves a degree of being on automatic pilot/unconscious thereby losing our ability to choose our thoughts and how they influence us. The mere act of being present with our thoughts completely changes not only how they affect us but the very nature of those thoughts. Paradoxically, being present with our thoughts also tends to slow them down in addition to modifying the quality of them. The practice of mindfulness reduces fear and with reduced fear the nature of our thoughts take a turn for the better.
As we progress with our mindfulness practice we also begin to notice space between our thoughts. That space becomes a fruitful opportunity for experience and examination. It gives us entree into the world of silence and stillness, a world that so many of us have not had the opportunity to experience in a long time. With the fast paced lives that so many of us lead it is imperative to balance it off with silence and stillness…. the ultimate goal of mindfulness being the blending of doing and being. This allows us to bring the experience of peace into all actions.
With practice we can choose when and what to think about. In the meantime embrace all of your thoughts as an opportunity to be present.