Sunday, July 13, 2008

You are not your thoughts or feelings

Find a quiet spot where you can sit for the next ten minutes. When you’re comfortably settled, do the following:
  1. Take a few slow, deep breaths.
  2. Turn your attention to your thoughts. (If you tend to be an emotional person, you can do the same exercise with your emotions.) Instead of getting caught up in your thoughts (or emotions) as you might usually do, watch them closely, the way an angler watches the tip of a rod or a tennis player watches a ball. If you find your attention wandering, come back to the task at hand. At first, your mind may seem like wall-towall thoughts or emotions, and you may have difficulty determining where one thought leaves off and the next one begins. You may also find that certain thoughts or emotions keep recurring like popular tunes — for example, repetitive worries or favorite images or fantasies. If you’re especially attentive, you may begin to notice that each thought or emotion has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  3. At the end of the ten minutes, stop and reflect on your experience. Did you experience some distance from your thoughts or emotions? Or did you keep losing yourself in the thinking or feeling process? The point of this exercise is not to see how well you can track your thinking or feeling, but to give you the experience of being the observer of your thoughts. Believe it or not, you’re the thinker not the thoughts! As you begin to gain some perspective on your thoughts through the practice of meditation, you may find that your thoughts start losing the power they once had over you. You can have your thoughts, but they won’t have you.

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