What to do with your thoughts while you move

man with many thoughts - what to do with your thoughts

What to do with your thoughts while you move

I can’t meditate. My mind is too active. I can’t stop thinking.

If I had a dollar (or even a dime) for every time I’ve heard that, I’d be set financially for life. The prevailing myth that meditation requires you to still the mind is pervasive and false. When you meditate, you don’t try to calm your mind or stop thoughts, you work with them. As a result of meditation, thinking may slow, but that’s not the point. Rather, as you know, the point of meditation is to bring ourselves into the present moment. With practice, we can use our thoughts for that purpose.

Why do you call it the “tricky” mind?

Thoughts are seductive, entertaining, powerful. We easily get caught in thought, hop on the thought train, and ride it all the way to the wrong station. Meditation teaches us to let each thought arise, do its little dance, and pass away. Because thinking is so sticky and seductive, many meditation teachers do not offer thought meditation to beginning students. The lure of the thinking rabbit hole can be a powerful waste of time.

A racing mind can cause pain to the point of suffering. Most people daydream, worry, or plan much of the time. Our thoughts are rarely in the present. Until we begin to bring our attention into the moments we inhabit, noticing how thoughts come and go, we may not even realize how busy  the mind can be. And we might not have felt the discomfort our thinking causes.

Ouch. No wonder people don’t want to meditate. If meditation doesn’t stop thoughts and thinking can cause suffering, what the heck do I do?

You ask such good questions!

As you learn mindful movement meditation, you can choose thoughts as your “object of meditation,” the thing on which you place your attention. This differs vastly from ordinary thinking. Thoughts are not your enemy. They are part of experience. You attend to thoughts the same way you would any other aspect of experience, by infusing them with awareness and equanimity.

Instead of letting the mind wander, you notice thoughts, let them come and go, rise and fall, but don’t identify with them or get caught in them. With practice, your mind will settle.

Please know that using thoughts as your object of meditation requires powerful concentration and strong intent. Not willpower: Focus. Not control:  Intention. Meditation on thought requires fierce curiosity and a strong intention to see and experience reality as it is. It requires you to be eager to return to the present moment.

I have included more than twenty “Your Turn” exercises in the book Make Every Move a Meditation.

This excerpt is from Make Every Move a Meditation by Nita Sweeney which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.