excerpt new book 'bringing meditation to life'

The Mind Is of the Nature to Generate Thoughts
Claude AnShin Thomas

Many people think that meditation is about stopping our thoughts or having a blank mind, but this is simply not possible. Our mind is of the nature to generate thoughts. Meditation is about learning not to get swept away by our thoughts.

Initially, the technique of counting our breaths from one to ten, then back again, can be helpful. Count “one” for the first cycle of breath (the first in-breath and out- breath), then “two” for the next cycle, and so on. When you notice that your mind has wandered off, simply begin counting again from one.

The point of this technique is not to master getting to ten and then back to one, nor do we count this way to block out our thoughts. Counting this way simply helps us to notice when we get swept away by our thoughts and lose contact with our breath. This will happen, sometimes very quickly. When it does, we just return our attention to our breath and count “one.”

Meditation gives us the opportunity to develop a new kind of relationship to our thinking. We learn to be the observer of our thoughts, without attaching to them or rejecting them. We start to notice that thoughts and feelings are not so solid, real, or lasting: they arise, they have a certain life cycle, and then they pass away. If I am concentrated on my breath, then all things are present. My thoughts are here, my feelings are here. I am just not drawn as deeply into them, and I am not controlled by them.