A lot of the time we’re thinking and that isn’t always good or helpful. Thinking (unlike thoughtful attention) is about constructing: a future, a past, another person – or oneself. It’s often about creating an alternative to the direct experience of the here and now. And there’s stress in that. So what we do for clarity and calm is to come into the present and rest in that.
It’s like our thinking is a show that we can sit back and watch. This position of watchful awareness allows the system to regenerate or refresh and also to get perspective on what and how the mind is creating. It takes you to the treadmill of thinking and lightens the weight on the mind. Then you can employ thoughtful attention rather than get lost in thinking.
A memo to draw the mind out of runaway thinking is: ‘the future is the imagined, the past is a memory and what other people and you are is a changeable notion.’ Although these impressions quickly proliferate, there is no stable reality in any thought – which is why involvement with thought gets stressful.
So … tune in to the thinking as a flow. Soften your attention around the topics and your reactions to them and instead feel the movement of thinking. Racing, circling, sparkling, grinding … whatever. Let go of the topic, tune in to the flow. Unhook from the need to arrive at a conclusion. Right now, there is no conclusion. Also, put aside the irritation with thinking and the wish that it stop. Feel the energy of thinking and settle it on the breathing.
It’s like riding a horse or surfing a wave. Keep the breath-energy and the thought-energy in mind, letting them meet and move together.
This reflection by Ajahn Sucitto is from the booklet, Clarity and Calm for Busy People.