“T” is for Thinking
It seems that “thinking” has gotten a bad rap in the pop-realms of meditation and mindfulness. For many, when they imagine what “meditation” is, they think of it as akin to a “sin” even! In my beginning course, I always start the class by surveying the reasons why people want to learn meditation. The predominant answers echo these:
“I want to stop my thinking!”
“How do I stop my random, chaotic thoughts?!”
“I don’t want to have anxious thoughts!”
Dogen, in the Fukanzazengi (his treatise on zazen & practice-realization) has these famous words:
“Think of not thinking….Non-thinking.
This in itself is the essential art of zazen.”
Many interpret “non-thinking” as “having no thoughts.”
“Thinking is not a problem,” I’m always telling people. I usually then follow up with,
“In Buddhism, a thought is just a thought. Period.”
Thinking is not a problem when you can just know it as that…. a thought; a mental formation. IF/WHEN you’re able to just leave it as-it-is, THEN it’s non-thinking.
Of course that’s hard to do. VERY HARD. Mostly we interpret, “translate,” make-it-into-a-story (mostly about “me” or “you” or “us” or “them”)…. And then it’s no longer non-thinking.
Therefore, it’s helpful to know how to not-think. To purposefully focus where you think to train the mind. This isn’t that easy to do either.
Maybe that’s why people don’t stick with practicing mediation for long. It does take effort to practice not-thinking and non-thinking.
So when what you think, “Should be easy!” isn’t; it seems easier to just quit.
And, that’s probably when you could miss out on real understanding — which leads to real practice…. Just sitting. No pushing away thoughts. No grasping thoughts. Just letting them come and go as they may.
To hear a related Dharma talk: The Zen Wave
And then, if you want to stop thinking about thinking and go on to learn how to practice “not thinking” and “non-thinking,” check out our brief video and description of Meditation Training