Since a couple of weeks I'm stuck in meditation with something that's unclear. I hope that answers will help me get some inspiration and ideas.

So, how do the thoughts appear to you? As words, as pictures, as a far away voice? Is it always the same way, or do they sometimes appear as pictures and sometimes as words?

I have asked a couple of people already, and nobody seems to be able to tell me. Everyone responded with 'I don't know'. Which is kind of weird, since we all think.

Anyway, in my case: thoughts appear to me as a distant voice. Just to share my bit of experience. :)


To me, thoughts appear as relationships or associations. When I think of something, I remember something else related to that, and then the next thing, or several next things. All these memories are at first very vague - more like feelings - and then if I give one of them attention, it becomes more specific. Now, if I look more carefully at a single thought - it is not a solid thing, it is just a pointer to more memories related to it. So to me all thoughts are empty connections with one another.

I can also visualize objects as images, and sometimes these visual images float from memory all by themselves - so some of my thinking is visual. Or sometimes I remember sounds or tactile sensations. But those are more like "memories" than "thoughts".

I also have inner dialog at times, but by now I have mostly learned to stop it when needed. So when I think I mostly don't think in words, but in those connections I described above. When I do have an inner dialog it sounds like memory of my own voice, i.e. like I'm talking very quietly to myself, or rather remembering how my voice would sound if I said those words.

When I think about something complex, organically (i.e. not reasoning step by step), I may have some kind of complex interconnected structure appear in my head. It's like a mesh of interconnected wires, each wire being a thought connected with other thoughts. Sometimes I look at the entire mesh from afar and try to see high-level patterns, or a particular way seemingly unrelated things are connected. This entire structure is multidimensional, not 3D. Sometimes two thoughts may appear as two separate thoughts, but if you trace them into another dimension you will see that they are in fact two projections of the same one thought and that's how you see they are connected.

Working with these thoughts-as-connections requires using feelings. Feelings are like queries you can send to the mesh, to find relationships, or to find a particular thought.


To me, thoughts appear as a constant monologue. They are words, but it's as if someone is talking in my head. That somebody I had accepted as me but of late I know it's my mind. It's not a distant voice for me, it's a very close voice, in my head. For sure those thoughts do not appear as images of words, they are verbal. And I think only a musician must be capable to think in musical notes, for rest of us, they must be verbal words.

Sometimes if I am daydreaming or imagining, that also appears as images, like a movie, the sound and dialogue is also provided by my mind.

Most importantly the thoughts are flavored and affected by my emotions and vice-versa. If I am happy, I have good thoughts about future, mostly desires, if I am sad, thoughts are sad. But I have dealt with it, most of it.

  • Very helpful. Thank you so much! :) If I understand you correctly, you are able to make a clear distinction between thoughts, daydreaming and story creating/imagining. I'm not sure whether you practice vipassana. If so, do you see the 'noting' as thoughts or voice of the mind as well (not sure how else to describe it)? – user13579 Jun 22 '18 at 11:26
  • I have done the Vipassana retreat few times but I find it difficult as the moment I use my mind to concentrate it flies off. So I learnt zazen and Samatha, which now I practise. So, during Zazen 'nothing' occurs to me not as thought but hightened awareness of senses. Something what Ajahn Brahm calls Present Moment Awareness. But that is not Shunyata or anything, its just few seconds without thoughts. – user13135 Jun 22 '18 at 12:11
  • Alrighty. Again, thank you. It was really helpful. :) – user13579 Jun 22 '18 at 19:54

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