Mindfulness of breath and relaxing our body gives the mind something to do and helps with intrusive thought. The Living Inquiries are all about watching and working with thought.
Thought comes to a rest, then there’s a gap, then other thoughts come in. We don’t decide or know ahead of time what thoughts are going to come. They just show up and then we either get absorbed in them or we don’t and they dissolve. This is how it works in the thought layer of the mind.
We sometimes judge ourselves for the very natural process of getting carried away in a stream of thought. It’s shocking how aggressive we can be towards ourselves. We have deeply held ideas about how we “should” be doing our lives. On a spiritual path, it might be “I should be calm” or “I should not be upset by what’s happening”.
Many factors affect our response to experience and thought. We might be able to “handle” certain people when we’re rested and calm and not when we’re already stressed. Persistence and longevity creates a cumulative affect that also affects resilience. Even a small trigger that happens over and over can eventually provoke a negative response.
We experience life through our bodies and that includes our nervous systems, brains, hormones and thought. Paying attention to our experience yields great benefit. We understand our process and internal environment and know it to be universal. Everyone gets carried away by thought at times. We all have a storehouse of associations and memories that come up in response to experience. We are all affected by stress.
Try to notice the moment when you get carried away in a thought. I’m not sure it’s possible to notice “as” we’re getting carried away. It seems to me there are two mechanisms – watching thought and being absorbed in thought. We can definitely notice sooner than we used to that we’ve been carried away on a thought stream. It is a natural function of the mind for that to happen then we blame ourselves for how our system actually works. Knowing this can make it easier to hold ourselves with compassion and kindness.
Enjoy this 19 minute mindfulness practice and relaxation