For many people, one of the most common reasons to quit meditation is that they overthink; their thoughts bother them more than usual. Why is that?
The human brain thinks a lot, and that’s a fact. A 2020 study suggested people typically have more than 6,000 thoughts per day. Can you remember even 15–20 of any thoughts you went through yesterday? Maybe not. It’s because most of them went by without you consciously following them.
But while we’re in meditation, because our entire focus is to “not think,” we end up thinking more than we could imagine. This can be fixed for a person with patience, but in 2–3 sessions, most impatient people lose it and start hating their mind.
This is not the right way.
Meditation is the process of self-discovery, and you cannot hate yourself for underperforming a few times.
Let’s logically address this problem and understand the nature of thoughts.
First, why does your mind think while you’re meditating?
This is similar to asking, “why do my eyes blink while looking?”
Eyes blink, and the mind thinks because that’s what they’re here for. You cannot ask the mind to stop thinking because thinking is what keeps you conscious. When you stop thinking, you fall asleep, and one of the first principles of meditation is Alertness.
Just like moisture is inseparable from water and heat from light, thoughts are inseparable from the mind. One cannot stop them, but one can choose to stay with them or let them go.
An empty mind does not mean a mind without thoughts; it means a mind without obstruction. Thoughts will come and go because they are the basis of the mind, but they shouldn’t obstruct your concentration.
How do we prevent thoughts from obstructing?
It’s simple, do not entertain them.
Let me explain this more thoroughly.
Imagine the “Gallery App” in your phone is your mind. Your pictures are your thoughts.
When you look through your pictures and keep swiping, you are witnessing thoughts. Not attaching yourself to them or following them, just witnessing. One shot to another, one thought to another.
But when you stop to look at one picture, you start entertaining a thought. You go deep into it, maybe look for a little pimple or something else. In other words, you’re now following a thought which will inevitably create a trail of thoughts.
The next time you sit for meditation, remember this example and keep swiping.
You have to watch your thoughts as they come and go, not think about them. The minute you think about a thought, you’ll realize that your mind wants more of it now.
In the early stages of meditation, it can be tough just to watch and not think but trying is important. As you perfect your practice, these thoughts will simply become a movie for you that you can watch, change, or discard as you like.
So, calm down, breathe, and let your mind flow free. Let it go wherever it goes, and then gently bring it back to your object of attention.