Practice: Counting Thoughts

“With the mind, observe the mind.”
– Buddha

 This first simple practice gives an immediate experience of mindfulness of thought. Sit comfortably and quietly. After a few moments, resolve to count your thoughts for one or two minutes. You can set a timer, or simply estimate the time. Close your eyes and wait there like a cat at a mouse hole. There will be picture thoughts and word thoughts. Count each one. (Don’t count the numbers.) At first they may slow down. At some point thoughts may be tricky, “It’s quiet, isn’t it?” or “There haven’t been many thoughts yet, have there?”  or “Am I doing this right?”

After one or two minutes, stop. You will have counted three or ten or thirty thoughts, for some people mostly pictures, for some mostly words. You now know what it is like to directly observe the thought stream.

 One-Sided Thoughts

Choose an important area of your life where you have difficulty or conflict. Bring to mind the key beliefs you hold about the situation, the people, the institution, the circumstance. “They are….”, “I am….”, “It is….. “, etc. After you have brought the beliefs to mind, question them. Are they completely true? Are they one-sided? Who made up this story? What if some of the opposite was also true?  What is our experience if we let these thoughts and beliefs go? Try letting them go, relax and rest in not knowing, or rest in lovingkindness. How does this affect your body and mind? How does this affect the situation? How is it to live not so caught up in your thoughts?

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