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Meditation = no thoughts?

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Attendees on a Learn to Meditate course often wrongly assume that meditation is a tool that will enable them to remove and/or block out thoughts. When I did a beginner’s meditation course, I remember anxiously asking my meditation teacher Matt whether it was normal that I had thoughts while meditating. It was Week 3 of the course and I was disappointed that my meditation practice was yet to equate to a thought-free mind. He responded with, “That’s ok, does that matter? Thinking is what the mind does.’

As a meditation teacher myself, I’m often asked the same question by people new to meditation (or even people who have been meditating for a long time for that matter!). Many have signed up to a meditation course in the hope they will learn how to block out thoughts. “I’ve come to meditation to learn how to clear my mind of thoughts,” people frequently share.

Week 1, among other things, is about dispelling the commonly held view that meditation helps people to block out thoughts. Instead, meditation:

  • Involves getting to know your own mind, including its thought patterns and stories
  • Encourages you to relate to your thoughts in a more objective way
  • Encourages you to see thoughts for what they are – stories created by your mind – rather than facts.

It is not unreasonable to hope that thoughts – especially the sticky ones that keep you awake at night and keep you on edge during the day – disappear while meditating, leaving you with a clear, thought-free mind. But as I have to learn through my own meditation practice, research and study, for as long as I am alive, my thoughts will also be with me. That leaves you and I with little choice but to learn to live, rather than struggle with our thoughts. I could not think of a better tool than meditation.

Weeks 4 – 6 of the Learn to Meditate course in Preston explores thoughts in meditation. Register for the next course now.

Dr Russ Harris’ book, The Happiness Trap features some great strategies on how to work with and relate to thoughts.

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