Thinking about thinking

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
Post Reply
Richkierich
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon May 16, 2016 4:17 am

Thinking about thinking

Post by Richkierich » Mon May 16, 2016 7:24 am

Hello, my first post here :) Thank you for having such a wonderful forum. Some questions I wanted to ask here, I learnt to meditate from Ajahn Brahms videos and just started meditating for the past 3 months and have been doing it everyday without fail. This is weird but I feel like I am having a hard time "letting go" in my recent meditation practice. To describe further and in short, its like a thought comes in, and after a while I will notice it, and then comes the thinking about thinking.

In my head, there will be thoughts like "oh man, you only noticed the thought after so long, that's not good" or "how long have I been following my previous thought? How can I be sure if I am doing this correctly?

In short, I'm thinking about thinking. And the more I have those thoughts, the more frustrated I get, and other random thoughts keep coming in. Is there any way I can clear these thoughts from me?

Thank you in advance :smile:

pegembara
Posts: 1310
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:39 am

Re: Thinking about thinking

Post by pegembara » Mon May 16, 2016 8:13 am

Thinking about thinking is mental proliferation or papanca in Pali. Keep watching those thoughts and they will go away. That is their nature. If you feel frustrated, watch that feeling. It will also go away.

As AB would say - "You are not in control."
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

User avatar
Goofaholix
Posts: 2985
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Thinking about thinking

Post by Goofaholix » Mon May 16, 2016 9:11 am

The more you fight thoughts the more strength you give them, don't make a problem out of thoughts, it' the minds job to think.

You are doing glass half empty practice, instead do glass half full practice and give importance to noticing the times you are aware, notice the times you are not lost in thought, notice the gaps between thoughts, notice when the mind is relatively calm. Gradually over time you'll reinforce that these things are good and should be encouraged and that thoughts are not the enemy and you don't need to be bothered by them.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

Richkierich
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon May 16, 2016 4:17 am

Re: Thinking about thinking

Post by Richkierich » Mon May 16, 2016 10:46 am

Goofaholix wrote:The more you fight thoughts the more strength you give them, don't make a problem out of thoughts, it' the minds job to think.

You are doing glass half empty practice, instead do glass half full practice and give importance to noticing the times you are aware, notice the times you are not lost in thought, notice the gaps between thoughts, notice when the mind is relatively calm. Gradually over time you'll reinforce that these things are good and should be encouraged and that thoughts are not the enemy and you don't need to be bothered by them.
Thank you so much, I was actually fighting the thoughts.
Now I understand.

Richkierich
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon May 16, 2016 4:17 am

Re: Thinking about thinking

Post by Richkierich » Mon May 16, 2016 10:50 am

pegembara wrote:Thinking about thinking is mental proliferation or papanca in Pali. Keep watching those thoughts and they will go away. That is their nature. If you feel frustrated, watch that feeling. It will also go away.

As AB would say - "You are not in control."
Thank you pegembara, didn't know why I was getting frustrated, I guess I was trying to be in control.
Will watch that feeling.
:goodpost:

JohnK
Posts: 660
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 11:06 pm
Location: Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Re: Thinking about thinking

Post by JohnK » Mon May 16, 2016 2:42 pm

Richkierich wrote:...In my head, there will be thoughts like "oh man, you only noticed the thought after so long, that's not good"
Great responses already.
I'll only add that my teacher describes the practice as working the muscle of returning to the present.
So, you can't practice (do repetitions with the muscle) unless you leave (lost in thought).
Distractions provide the opportunity to recognize distraction and to return to the meditation object -- a great thing!
Keep working that muscle!
Recognizing how you create your own suffering with your expectations and self-judgments is also very useful.
Getting to know suffering is critical task of first noble truth -- discomfort does not mean you are off track!
Best of luck!
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

paul
Posts: 1307
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 11:27 pm
Location: Vietnam

Re: Thinking about thinking

Post by paul » Mon May 16, 2016 11:09 pm

You are in danger of falling into 'passive mindfulness', a widely recognised pitfall today for beginners, which ignores the function of Right Effort.
"...the path is not a truth available to passive observation. It's a truth of the will: something that can become true only if you want it to happen. By applying the desire of right effort, the element of skilful purpose, to the act of remaining focused, ardency enables sati to be established as right sati."[chap. 1]
In other words mindfulness is not right mindfulness unless it is harnessed to the tasks of right effort. Those tasks are the efforts to avoid, to overcome, to develop and to maintain.
Since you are focusing on the mind, these efforts refer to the:
" …categories (in Mental Qualities, the fourth in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness) of the five hindrances and the abandoning of unskillful mental qualities; the category of the seven factors for awakening makes reference to the act of bringing these skillful mental qualities to the culmination of their development, an achievement that can't be accomplished simply through passive observation." [chap.8]
“Many of the most tenacious causes require serious exertion and conscious fabrication”. (chap.4)
“Right Mindfulness”, Thanissaro Bikkhu.
Last edited by paul on Mon May 16, 2016 11:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 20146
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Thinking about thinking

Post by retrofuturist » Mon May 16, 2016 11:15 pm

Greetings,

This teaching from the Buddha seems applicable to your current situation.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

Richkierich
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon May 16, 2016 4:17 am

Re: Thinking about thinking

Post by Richkierich » Tue May 17, 2016 1:33 am

JohnK wrote:
Richkierich wrote:...In my head, there will be thoughts like "oh man, you only noticed the thought after so long, that's not good"
Great responses already.
I'll only add that my teacher describes the practice as working the muscle of returning to the present.
So, you can't practice (do repetitions with the muscle) unless you leave (lost in thought).
Distractions provide the opportunity to recognize distraction and to return to the meditation object -- a great thing!
Keep working that muscle!
Recognizing how you create your own suffering with your expectations and self-judgments is also very useful.
Getting to know suffering is critical task of first noble truth -- discomfort does not mean you are off track!
Best of luck!
Hmmm, hey you're right, I am actually noticing I'm going off track and then getting back to my sitting, maybe its not such a bad thing after all :jumping: What about mental chatter? As in for example, when I know I am drifting with a thought and then I noticed it, and I tell myself "Oh, I'm thinking again, that's not my business", do I watch these thoughts too? Its like the thoughts that I am asking myself to let go.

I've practiced another round yesterday, and it does feel better after all your advises, thank you guys.

Richkierich
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon May 16, 2016 4:17 am

Re: Thinking about thinking

Post by Richkierich » Tue May 17, 2016 1:37 am

paul wrote:You are in danger of falling into 'passive mindfulness', a widely recognised pitfall today for beginners, which ignores the function of Right Effort.
"...the path is not a truth available to passive observation. It's a truth of the will: something that can become true only if you want it to happen. By applying the desire of right effort, the element of skilful purpose, to the act of remaining focused, ardency enables sati to be established as right sati."[chap. 1]
In other words mindfulness is not right mindfulness unless it is harnessed to the tasks of right effort. Those tasks are the efforts to avoid, to overcome, to develop and to maintain.
Since you are focusing on the mind, these efforts refer to the:
" …categories (in Mental Qualities, the fourth in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness) of the five hindrances and the abandoning of unskillful mental qualities; the category of the seven factors for awakening makes reference to the act of bringing these skillful mental qualities to the culmination of their development, an achievement that can't be accomplished simply through passive observation." [chap.8]
“Many of the most tenacious causes require serious exertion and conscious fabrication”. (chap.4)
“Right Mindfulness”, Thanissaro Bikkhu.
Thanks Paul, this is deep, kinda having trouble understanding this, let me google right effort to find out more. :D

Richkierich
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon May 16, 2016 4:17 am

Re: Thinking about thinking

Post by Richkierich » Tue May 17, 2016 1:52 am

Paul Davy wrote:Greetings,

This teaching from the Buddha seems applicable to your current situation.

Metta,
Paul. :)
Thanks Paul, this is kinda deep for me too :cry: , I apologize. In this link, basically, we have to jump from themes to themes? and when thoughts arise still, we go into relaxing of thought-fabrication?

User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
Posts: 20146
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Re: Thinking about thinking

Post by retrofuturist » Tue May 17, 2016 2:19 am

Greetings Richkierich,

No. It's a 5 step approach to removing unwholesome thoughts, where each step is a "stronger dosage" to the one prior... so you can scale up the response to whatever level you require depending on the magnitude of the symptoms.

Alternatively, there's the Buddha's process of dividing thoughts into two sorts, which may be helpful too.

As challenging as they may be to come to grips with initially, it is a blessing that we have the Buddha's discourses available to us to guide us safely to the good Dhamma.

:buddha1:

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

paul
Posts: 1307
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 11:27 pm
Location: Vietnam

Re: Thinking about thinking

Post by paul » Tue May 17, 2016 5:21 am

Hi Richkierich,
It may seem complex in a compressed form like that, but it's really only putting your practice into the perspective of the Noble Eightfold Path and is completely orthodox. If you could study the four functions of Right Effort . You're practising mindfulness, but you must yoke it to the tasks of Right Effort to activate the path. When you overcome the hindrances and cultivate the factors of enlightenment then that's an act of morality and sila is the basis of the path.
39. "Monks, I know not of any other single thing that brings such woe as the mind that is untamed, uncontrolled, unguarded and unrestrained. Such a mind indeed brings great woe.

40. "Monks, I know not of any other single thing that brings such bliss as the mind that is tamed, controlled, guarded and restrained. Such a mind indeed brings great bliss."
-AN 1.31-40

User avatar
_anicca_
Posts: 344
Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2016 9:44 pm

Re: Thinking about thinking

Post by _anicca_ » Wed May 18, 2016 10:52 pm

When I first began meditating, this is something I grappled with (and still do,occasionally)!
It's like a dog chasing it's own tail - you are thinking about thinking, as you said - and it gets you nowhere.
Treat the layer of thoughts that you have added on top of the initial thoughts just as you would any other distraction: simply observe and then return your attention back to the object of meditation.
Do not resist or push, but soften into it :)
Also, you seem to be very tough on yourself. What I have found to remedy this is forgiveness and metta. Forgiveness really is metta in a way, so repeat a wish of forgiveness to yourself (i.e. "I forgive myself for not being perfect.") and to the thoughts that have distracted you ("i forgive you for causing me pain").
As others have elucidated, the more you try to control, the bigger and more intense the thoughts get. Control really is aversion and aversion keeps you stuck.
"A virtuous monk, Kotthita my friend, should attend in an appropriate way to the five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self."

:buddha1:

http://vipassanameditation.asia

Richkierich
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon May 16, 2016 4:17 am

Re: Thinking about thinking

Post by Richkierich » Thu May 19, 2016 1:01 am

Gosh I appreciate all the help in here guys :twothumbsup:

I tried resisting the thoughts, controlling them and pushing them away and everything goes haywire, then, I began implementing the suggestions you guys mentioned, to observe and sort of watching and "being" with it and to "soften" it and it does really melts on its own. I mean the thoughts still come and go, its just that it doesn't spread like wildfire, it comes and dies off in a matter of seconds, milliseconds even.

So this is the letting go that AB mentioned, I felt this previously before, felt all the calmness and peace, maybe I was having some stressful days of late and got carried away again with my emotions, that explains that influx of thoughts and emotions lately. Will definitely practice this in my daily life.

Thank you so much guys :namaste:

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 32 guests