3

This question is mere practical: how a practitioner avoids that his mind wanders away into stories and dramas. There are moments that "noting" does not help.

  • related question: Overwhelming thoughts - Mindfulness and awareness – Thiago Feb 20 '15 at 1:44
  • Hmm, I don't see any relation between the question of adding concepts (to thinking) and that concerning wandering thoughts while meditating. Could you explain a bit more what the focus of your question actually is? – Gottfried Helms Feb 20 '15 at 12:43
6

The short answer is: by not adding concepts to the thinking, by not feeding it.

There are moments that "noting" does not help.

Sometimes the mind is more quiet, sometimes it is more uneasy. Don't expect that in meditation you will always progress, or that the progress will be steady. Don't create the expectation that the mind will always settle when meditating, because it can be unsatisfying. Don't fight your mind and don't force it to calm down, it can be frustrating.

Instead, when you notice your mind is wandering, bring your awareness back to the object of meditation. The practice of meditation is not to stop adding concepts to the thinking actively, or to learn to interrupt the process of thought. But it is more like weakening the impulse and momentum of thought. Thinking will never completely cease as it inherent to the human being. But with practice you get less overwhelmed and blinded by it, thinking becomes subtle and calm. Then, don't be anxious about being peaceful or settling the mind, because this anxiety defeats the purpose of meditation, it just would feed the eager to think.

You can also practice to perceive the thoughts in a distanced manner. When someone is wandering on the thoughts, it is like he/she is immersed on them, being carried away by them. Then instead of being in the flow of the thinking, try to watch the thinking from outside. Be aware of the process of thought, perceive how it moves and watch it go away by itself. Instead of trying to block the chain of thoughts, something that is usually ineffective, try to stop feeding it and let it go.

There is also shamata, a practice to improve the stability of awareness. Begin by keeping the focus on the breath as long as you can. It seems that shamata is commonly disregarded for its simplicity, but it is very important. How can you meditate on something if you your awareness isn't stable? If you are really into it, I suggest you to read the book "The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind" by Alan Wallace.

And last, vipassana can be helpful to perceive that it makes no sense to "feed the trains of thought". From one side, thinking usually tries to fight the impermanent and unfulfilling marks of existence, and asserts the identity (the concept of self). From other side, thinking itself is impermanent (it is mostly random in the long run), is unfulfilling (its desires and aversions are never completely met) and have no self (it is not absolute, nor apart from everything else). Although thought is produced, you don't need to get overwhelmed and blinded by it, you don't have to be driven by it.

EDIT:

Adding some more explanation on second paragraph after the quote, regarding interrupting the thought or stopping adding concepts to it.

And adding a bit more info to shamata and vipassana part.

2

In the Vitakkasanthana Sutta several different ways are presented by the wise one, the first one (also recommended by Thich Nhat Hanh) is sometimes called "Changing the peg":

Here, bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu is giving attention to some sign, and owing to that sign there arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then he should give attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome. When he gives attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome, then any evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion are abandoned in him and subside. With the abandoning of them his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated. Just as a skilled carpenter or his apprentice might knock out, remove, and extract a coarse peg by means of a fine one, so too … when a bhikkhu gives attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome … his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated.

© Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Wisdom Publications, 2009)

Hope this helps you and others

1

What you have to do is the following:

  1. Realise the mind has wondered away
  2. Have a look at the object which it has wondered away to and the sensation it creates (if thoughts around the head)
  3. Look at how you perceive this and the metal reaction that follows (if thoughts around the head)
  4. These sensations trigger more thoughts and reactions in quick succession which in tern creates more sensations
  5. Bring back your mind to your object of meditation
  • When you say "if thoughts around the head", do you mean, getting carried away by thoughts / daydreams? – user2341 Feb 21 '15 at 16:31
1

Previous posters have provided some solid recommendations. To them, I'd add the role of philosophy.

Our mind wanders to things to which we are attached; concepts, ideas, worries and so on. This means if we work on adopting a philosophy of life designed to reduce these attachments, we should reduce the mind's tendency to wander.

You've heard of the saying "All Roads Lead to Rome"? Well, we can paraphrase that to "All Attachments Lead to Self". So work on the Self, and you work on the key player in your attachments.

This is where the path comes in. Things like unconditional compassion, right speech and renunciation can help free the mind from the various scenarios that play out. For instance, daydreaming about getting even or telling someone off is often done as a dry run for possible courses of action should those situations arise. Yet if (a priori) I have discounted those possibilities by truly committing to right speech, how likely are they to arise, or to persist should they arise?

  • I like your paragraph 4: seeing the pointlessness of daydreaming about things we know we won't do. Paragraph 2: reducing attachment - this might be tough to do face-on, thus your advice to undermine attachments instead of trying to just stop them cold. Interesting to bring Philosophy in to a question of how to avoid adding concepts to thinking! I guess if it simplifies. – user2341 Feb 21 '15 at 16:30
1

Trying to find a good link to what is commonly rendered as The Four Mindful Establishments

There are details in the Sattipathana Sutra as well as in other sources. Here is a useful passage from a pdf found via search:

This is the one-way path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentations, for the passing away of pain and dejection, for the attainment of the true way, for the realization of Nibbana - namely, the four establishments of mindfulness. What are the four?

A person dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, and mindful, having subdued longing and dejection in regard to the world.

He or she dwells contemplating feelings in feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having subdued longing and dejection in regard to the world.

He or she dwells contemplating mind in mind, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having subdued longing and dejection in regard to the world.

He or she dwells contemplating phenomena in phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having subdued longing and dejection in regard to the world.

Keeping our practice from straying into the imaginal/conceptual is vital.

Thus, training ourselves to be present with and aware of our bodily sensations is really wonderful.

On top of that, the senses of touch, smell, taste, sight, and sound are all non-conceptual information, and concentrating on perceiving any one of those is a very skillful practice.

0

This question is mere practical: how a practitioner avoids that his mind wanders away into stories and dramas. There are moments that "noting" does not help.

I use discipline to not continue on with a story.I can't help my mind from wandering but as soon as i note it i find that i can use discipline to stay anchored in the present moment.Also if i really can't stop,i just bring mindfulness to experience whatever i am experiencing.Mindfulness has this, forgive me for saying this,this annoying sobering up quality that can snap you of anything.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.