Meditation practice is not about blanking the mind. Trying to stop thinking would be like trying to stop digesting or stop pumping blood. The stomach is made to digest food, the heart is made to pump blood and the mind is made to think. That’s what it does. It generates thoughts, pretty much non-stop, But right now. as you are reading this page, are you involved with your stomach digesting or your heart pumping blood? Are you identified with digestion or circulation? Arc you attending to them? Of course not. They go on automatically in the background while your attention is directed toward reading.
During meditation practice, the idea is to direct your attention to your breath or your mantra or whatever the focus of your meditation is and allow the mind to do its thing automatically in the background, just like all your other organs are always doing. It’s not a battle unless you make it a battle. It’s merely a habit you are trying to form, the habit of dis-identifying with the mind as “me.” The mind is not “you” any more than the stomach or heart or ears are “you.” They are parts of you. They are part of how you get along in the world. They are important tools, but they are not you. You are something deeper and more mysterious than any of your parts--including the mind.
So, meditation practice is our daily opportunity to strengthen our sense of being more than the thinking mind. We sit down to meditate, the mind keeps trying to grab all our attention with its thoughts, and we keep re-directing our attention to the breath or mantra. The mind employs all sorts of tricks, and we fall for many of them, then we remember and get back to our focal point. Gradually, if we simply persevere day in and day out, we become able to sit quietly focused on our breath, while the mind continues generating thoughts in the background. We notice most of the thoughts, but we do not get involved with them until meditation practice is over. The mind does its thing and we do ours, and we co-exist.
And then sometimes the great spiritual magic happens and our minds do really stop for a brief time. Oh boy! It is a great experience when the mind stops. But we cannot ever make it happen. Don’t waste your energy trying. When the mind stops, we are sitting in true spiritual silence. Sometimes the breath even stops along with the mind. It’s amazing that we can sit for several minutes without breathing or being out of breath. These are nice experiences to look forward to over a lifetime of meditation practice, but they do not work as goals. Goals come from the mind, not the spirit. Goals produce agitation and frustration, and then we are moving in the opposite direction of meditation. Abandon goals and simply do the practice with patience and gentle discipline. The mind thinks; you gently redirect your attention. Your attention gets pulled into the mind, you redirect it again. And again. And again. Billions of times. That’s all you need to do. The “results” will take care of themselves.
I hope this little clarification will help to rejuvenate your meditation practice and give you a new sense of peace while you are practicing. Everyone’s mind is noisy; you are not alone. Thank God the object is not to silence it! Just redirect your attention, that’s all.
Public domain text by Bo Lozoff taken from: