This is the “extra credit” section of meditation. If you did not formally practice this technique you would learn it through practice of Center of Gravity and Pain Meditation. The advantage of including this in your early practice is that it may help you grasp early some important aspects of your mind. If you choose not to add this to your practice, I suggest you read this section carefully so that you can practice it as part of the other meditation processes.
Watching Thoughts is an interesting practice that opens a window on how the mind behaves, how we respond to our own thoughts and it helps you learn through practice that you are in the driver’s seat with regard to how you respond to your thoughts. One should practice it during the first 3-6 months of developing your practice and then you will naturally incorporate into the larger meditation framework. As with all forms of meditation it is in practice that we learn the actual nature of the process along with something about ourselves. So, here are the instructions:
- As with all forms of meditation practice, follow the instructions provided in the earlier section on Basic Meditation Practice.
- Begin with a few cycles of Attention To Breath as described earlier in this document.
- When practicing Watching Thoughts by itself, you should start with your eyes closed. This will make it easier to learn the basic process.
- Relax and sit without any intention other than observing your own mind. It is important for this to be your own natural process, so it is important that you do not intentionally try to raise particular thoughts; they will arise and vanish on their own.
- When thoughts arise simply experience them without investing yourself in each thought.
- If you suddenly realize that you are “involved” in a thought, simply bring your attention to your breath, and return to step (2).
Observing your thoughts is more than imagining you “see” your thoughts. The words that appear superficially to be each thought are merely a reflection of something deeper, so, “observing” in this case is more about “feeling” each thought than imagining that you visually see them. With practice you will learn how to feel the shape and texture of your thoughts as they rise and vanish.
You should practice Watching Thoughts by itself for 10-15 minute cycles a few times each week during the early stages of learning to meditate. Once you feel that you are comfortable with Watching Thoughts, it will not be necessary to formally practice it by itself. Then incorporating it into Center of Attention, and to a lesser degree Pain Meditation, will come naturally and easily.