One thing you should be clear about when it comes to meditation, is that you can’t stop thoughts even if you’re life depended upon it. Thoughts cannot be stopped by another thought or through sheer willpower. Whether you’re aware of them or not thoughts are part and parcel of the conscious experience of being an alive human being.
Many people think that meditation is about being completely free from thoughts, but meditation is more about cultivating awareness of your conscious experience, which includes what thoughts are, how they arise, how they fade, and the simple fact that they are there.
Many people also confuse meditation with concentration and focus. Meditation when done properly is rather the opposite, namely a defocusing and effortless presence. Though you can start your meditation through concentrating and focus, either on your senses, on your thinking process, on your inner self, the goal however is not to focus harder and harder but to relax more and more into your natural and unconditioned being.
Having said that, the most effective way to be free from thoughts is to understand some fundamental power(s) at your disposal as an sentient conscious being. Namely attention. Notice that whatever you place your attention upon, that becomes your immediate reality for a while. There are infinite things to direct your attention at or divert from, physically, mentally and emotionally. You should know that thoughts are included in this infinity of “objects”.
When you understand that and know how you can divert or direct your mental faculties, mostly attention to other things, like say sensory perceptions, you can learn to effectively be free from thoughts. Notice the distinction! You cannot stop thinking, but you can learn to disregard them through training and understanding.
Here are a couple ways you can free yourself from the tyranny of neverending thoughts:
- Number one is to start being more aware of your breathing, this was something we tackled in a previous article. Notice how the breath just comes in and out by itself, and the gap in between. By becoming more aware of the subtleties of the breathing process, you effectively calm the overactive gross mind that otherwise takes so much space in your consciousness.
- Another effective way to is to focus on the third eye, a point on the forehead just between the eyebrows. When you keep your concentration there sufficiently, you’ll notice that a space which contains the thoughts becomes more prominent in your mind. However this technique requires discipline, so you shouldn’t give up nor blame yourself when you’re not successful, i.e. thoughts keep coming up. Instead learn to let them go and fade away by themselves, while redirecting your attention to the point of the thirdeye.
- A third way, which is a rather unorthodox technique to “stop thinking”, is to become aware of the tongue, mouth and eyes. Why you may wonder? Well the answer is simple yet profound, first however you should know that most thoughts are either verbalization or visualization. When you trace back your thoughts to their root, you’re often left with the tongue as the verbalizing center and the eyes as the visualization center. Learning to relax the eyes and tongue, can lead you to a more thought-free state.
If you’re looking for a more permanent state of “no-mind”. There is another way, a more spiritual way, which is to go to the root of the thoughts through intense meditation and self-inquiry, the root which we can for now call the sense of separate self, the source from which all thoughts arise out of. When you isolate the sense of separate self, you’ll come to know intuitively that all thoughts arise out of that primordial thought. However this practice is generally suited for more experienced meditators and earnest spiritual seekers.
Thoughts cannot be stopped, what you can do is to divert and direct your attention to other immediate sensory objects in your consciousness, which are infinite but can include the breath, your “thirdeye” or why not the tongue and the eyes.
Daniel Seeker is a lifelong student of the past, present and future. He realized deep relaxations of the psyche when meditating in his hermit cave on the island of Gotland. His writings are mostly a reflection of that realization. Daniel has meditated & done yogic exercises daily for more than 10 years and is studying history and philosophy at Uppsala Universitet. He is currently finishing writing his B.A. thesis in history which explores how Buddhist, Yogic and Hindu texts were first properly translated and introduced to the western world in the late 18th and 19th century.