Anybody that has ever meditated will know how difficult sustaining present-moment awareness is. It’s so easy to get lost in a babble of thoughts.
When this happens, it’s understandable that people get frustrated.
But, as Bodhipaksa outlines in his excellent article on Wildmind, distraction is exactly what’s meant to happen. Meditation is about building the muscle of “returning”. Once you accept this simple fact, you can do away with a lot of the unnecessary self-berating.
One useful technique that Bodhi recommends is that of watching your “thoughtspace”. Doing so involves paying attention to the physical location of your thoughts. You probably experience them as being in a particular place, probably inside your head. When you purposefully monitor this space, you’ll notice that the distance between consecutive thoughts grows wider.
Interestingly, Bodhi also points to a second layer of subtler thoughts. These seem to arise further in the background, and act as the seeds of more prominent “voices” in the mind. Focusing on these, he says, can lead to even deeper periods of stillness.
There’s more, however. There’s also the “feeling space”, the physical area where feelings manifest themselves. For most people this is somewhere in the solar plexus or the belly. Monitoring this space shouldn’t involve having a laser-tight focus. Rather, a gentle full-body awareness that alights on the point in your body where the experience is arising is preferable.
If you can focus on these two aspects of experience at the same time (which may be difficult at first) then you will find that the mind quietens down.
When you start to notice more awareness pervading your day-to-day life, then you’ll know that you’re on your way to success. The important thing is to value the moments of mindfulness, not disparage the periods of rushing thoughts.
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