“How do I stop thinking?”
“I have so much thought! I can’t stay focus!”
“How do I control my mind? I feel like I’m losing it.”
“I can’t sleep. There are so many thoughts, I can’t help it”
Just as the heart is designed to pump, the brain is designed to think, and it throws you with thoughts every 1 or 2 seconds, you can’t really control those thoughts or stop them from popping up, what can you do about them? How can you stay focused better? How can you direct attention to the here and now, to the present moment, to the things you want to do?
The answer is pretty simple… We all hear it every now and then… You might even have tried or practiced it before…
Yes, being mindful, noticing your thought, accepting them (no judging), then bringing your attention to the present moment. How can you achieve that?
Yes, you need to practice, keep doing it, whenever you remember, it doesn’t just happen overnight. You can start with some simple meditation, you may learn the Benson’s relaxation method (read this). Or you can try the Leaves on the Stream here (with recordings).
“What’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation?”
One of the questions I was asked a few times, and this answer below is based on my practice and understanding.
There are two types of meditation, broadly speaking. One is with focused attention. So for example, when you focus on your breathing, a word, a prayer, the candle light, you let go of anything that comes into your attention, and keep redirecting your attention to the thing that you are focusing on. (One example of this type of meditation here).
Another type of meditation, is with widen attention (awareness). It’s like you are in a stadium when no game is being played. You watch the whole space. You watch your whole experience, like an observer, or like a third party, non-judging, and not reacting. You allow things to come and go.
This second type of meditation, is a mindfulness practice! The definition(s) of mindfulness generally includes being present, being aware, non-judgemental, and acceptance (not overly reactive). When you practice Leaves on the Stream, you are mindful of what’s going on in your mind. You can of course generalise this to your daily life, and be mindful of where you are, what you do, what you think/feel etc.
You can practice mindfulness anytime anywhere. Eating, drinking, working, typing, driving, exercising, walking mindfully (i.e. staying present, being aware of what you do, and being accepting). You can’t do all that while you meditate though.
Some people might meditate while they walk, run or swim. This can be with either first (focused, narrow attention) OR second type of meditation (broaden attention). With first, you might be saying “one, two, one, two, one, two…” in your mind, or noticing your breathing in and out. With second, you will be observing your whole experience, how your muscle move, what you see, hear, sense, how you feel etc.
I’d say both are meditation, but only the second one is being mindful. I hope I’ve made it clear?! Feel free to share your views!
Meditation Exercise: The Mind-Train
Following my favourite Leaves on the Stream (see here), I am introducing another mindfulness exercise. It is an eye-closed exercise (though possible to do it with eyes opened when you are familiar), so please read the instruction first.
Imagine you are standing at a railway bridge gazing down at three sets of train tracks. A slow mining train is on each set of tracks moving away from you. Each train is composed of a string of little coach/car. Seemingly endless, all three chug slowly along underneath the bridge.
Now, as you look down, imagine that the train to the left carries only ore composed of sensations, perceptions, and emotions (e.g. sounds you hear, hot sensation you feel, sweaty palms, sadness you notice, itchiness you feel etc). The middle train carries only your thoughts (your evaluations, predictions, and self-conceptualisation etc). The train on your right carries your urges to act (e.g. your pull to look away, your urge to scratch your face or stop the exercise, your efforts to change the subject). Looking down on these three tracks can be seen as a metaphor for looking at your mind.
Now, find a comfortable chair to sit in for a while in a spot where you won’t be disturbed and you can be quiet. Begin the exercise by thinking of something you’ve been struggling with lately, then close your eyes and picture the three tracks. Your job will be to stay on the bridge and gaze down at these three trains moving away from you. Take at least 3 minutes just to watch what comes up for you.
你也可以在运动时引起放松反应。比如你在慢跑或走路时，注意你的脚在地面上的节奏-“左，右，左，右”– 当其他想法进入你的脑海，说“哦…”，然后返回“左，右，左，右” 当然，眼睛要睁着！类似地，游泳者可以专注于他们的划动、骑自行车者专注于车轮的呼呼声，舞者专注于音乐的节拍，其他也可以专注于他们的呼吸节奏。