Sometimes it feels as if thoughts are just coming into the mind, and we cant stop them, we cant control them. Its no wonder many beginners are quick to believe that they cannot clear their mind or that it is impossible. It is half true... you cannot clear your mind by doing activity or attempting to control it through force, because...
Clarity is achieved only by ceasing activity.
If we look very closely, we might begin to notice the kinds of habitual mind activity that tend to proliferate thought. Some of this activity we claim that we are "doing", others we claim are "happening to us", often based on whether we think the activity is positive or negative respectively.
You could say that meditation is not an action, but a negation of action. Particularly mental ones.
Here are some habitual actions of the mind that I have noticed:
Judgement and non-acceptance
- Judgements about what is good or bad, correct or incorrect, supposed to or not supposed to happen.
- Judging thoughts as they arise instead of simply seeing and accepting them.
- Resisting, controlling or trying to "kill" or "repel" thoughts.
- Not accepting rest.
Identification and Involvement
- Becoming involved or heavily interested in thoughts - thinking about the present.
- Paying excessive attention to thoughts, and not enough to the empty spaces between them.
- Pursuing the past or inviting the future.
- Strongly identifying with an opinion.
- Expectation or anticipation of some particular result or experience.
- Fixed belief that thinking is always very necessary and helpful.
- Fixed belief that thinking is very annoying and unhelpful.
- Fixed belief that activity is required and always better than non-activity.
Thinking about (conceptualizing)
- Thinking about thoughts
- Thinking about emptiness or meditation, or other related concepts instead of simply experiencing.
- Conceptually examining rather than directly examining through clear awareness.
- Thinking about the end of the meditation session, or how long it has been.
It's a big list! Contemplate on some of these and see if you can notice them in your own mind.
When we learn to discern these mental habits and let them go, the mind naturally quietens for the moment. Whatever thoughts remain are calmly and clearly noticed. They too effortlessly dissolve when ignored. The infinite clarity that always exists at the base of everything is finally revealed, no longer obscured by mental activity.
Where do these habits come from in the first place? 🤔
With greater awareness and study, you may also gain insight into where the conditioning comes from in your daily life, that continuously reinforces these mental habits in the first place. Then you can consider whether some of those activities are truly worth it. For example, being busy all the time in your daily activity, can cause a busy mind full of mental activity. Is it really worth it?
This is far more effective than trying to use meditation as a "recovery tool" to cope with stress caused by daily activity. You plow the insights you gained during meditation back into your life and that in turn improves your future meditation and again your future lifestyle, and so on.