Contemplation versus meditation?

Contemplation versus meditation?

by Headspace » Fri Jun 06, 2014 11:31 pm


1) isn't thinking about my breath (the pause at the top of inspiration, or the sound of it, etc)
Rather than emptying of the mind? 2). Isn't focusing on the breath a form of contemplation?
So how is meditation going to empty the mind? It still holds a thought.... And is meditation ultimate goal to EMPTY the mind ?
So off my mind went with all these thoughts......

Andy's Answer

Hi and many thanks for getting in touch with your question.

I suspect this is one of the most common experiences when learning to meditate. The mind is so used to thinking about something that when we give it a task to do, even if it is something as (theoretically) simple as meditation, it keeps itself busy by thinking about the task.

The starting place is this:

Meditation is not about emptying the mind. Meditation is learning to witness the mind, free from distraction and free from judgement, no matter how many, or how few, thoughts there may be. As such, there is no such thing as good meditation or bad meditation. there is only distracted or undistracted, aware or unaware.

The next point is to recognise that thinking is thinking. It doesn't matter whether you are thinking about the exercise itself, or something completely different, they are still thoughts(!) This is why we need to train in awareness to see thoughts for what they are, to let them go, and to return to the breath.

It is not that you are doing anything wrong, it is simply part of learning to meditate, of realising that meditation is perhaps not what we thought it was, and that over-thinking things is a habit of a lifetime which can take a little while to give up.

The interesting thing is, when we learn to apply this awareness, simply being present, unruffled and undistracted by thoughts and feelings, a curious thing begins to happen. Thoughts tend to become a little less frequent. The intensity of emotions tend to become a little less overwhelming. And, in time, if we practise again and again on a regular basis, the space between the thoughts tends to expand a little, maybe giving the impression of an 'empty' mind as you describe. But it is not empty, it is simply the space between one thing and another - a wonderful feeling and yet at the same time something really rather ordinary. But it only happens when we stop chasing after it and instead simply focus on maintaining attention and awareness in each and every moment.

Hope that's reassuring in some way...

Warm wishes, Andy
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