By John Schorling
When we practice attention-focused meditation, we choose an object to focus on, like the breath, and place our attention there. We may follow a few breaths, then the attention wanders, often to thoughts and we get caught up in thinking. Eventually we will notice the thinking, and we can choose to return the attention back to focusing on breathing again.
We do this over and over again. With time, the period of time between thoughts might begin to increase, and we become aware of awareness, of paying attention without thoughts arising. In this space without thoughts, we can just be aware of our present moment experience. At first we may only be aware of wherever we have chosen to place our attention, perhaps noticing the sensations of breathing or the points of contact from sitting. We can also pay attention to the mind, noticing the absence of thoughts. How is this absence of thought experienced? With no thoughts there is no judging, no worrying, no wanting things to be different than they are. There are no thoughts of the future or of the past, there is only the present moment. In the space between thoughts, everything is just as it is.
As mentioned last month, thinking is obviously important, and it is necessary to many tasks such as evaluating and planning. Yet most thinking has nothing to do with these functions. Thoughts may arise about events that have happened in the past, things we wish had gone differently, or thoughts arise about the future, about things that haven’t happened or might never happen. Yet between thoughts there is only the space of a quiet mind, with no need for anything to be other than what it is. Without thought there is no labelling- things are not good or bad, we are not good or bad, others are not good or bad.
When we notice the space between thoughts, we can just rest the attention there. At first, this might just be for a few seconds. With practice, noticing thoughts as they arise and letting them go, the space between thoughts may grow. As the space grows, we can just rest in awareness, allowing things to just be as they are, with no need to fix anything or change anything. This space can be a refuge from the seemingly endless thoughts our mind can generate.
Filed Under: Monthly Musings