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Shouldn’t I Be Thinking Something?

Shouldn’t I Be Thinking Something?

Dear Blessed One,

Where are you? Are you right here, right now? Are you so sharply focused that nothing is going unnoticed in your periphery?

I was out for a short ride with a friend not too long ago and during the pregnant pause in our conversation, I had a gentle smile on my face as I was now deeply feeling into all that we were driving by.

There was a couple walking hand-in-hand, a woman with her sweet little dog in its funny checkered sweater, I felt a sense of excitement as I noticed the fog lifting and sun streaking through, and then the sudden awareness that he was not slowing down for the person in the crosswalk, which I immediately pointed out. Right after that he crossed over the bike lane for a rolling stop at a stop-sign, and then almost missed our next turn. I could feel his deep entrenchment in the thought-realm.

While this may not be the depth of your mind’s entrapment, it is a good example of lack of awareness and the power of the pull of thinking. Just like an alcoholic’s just-one-drink always leads to one more, a think-aholic’s I’m-just-going-to-bring-this-thought-to-resolution leads to one more, and one more, and one more, until something from the outside interrupts the pattern. Unfortunately the thinking mind is very good at bookmarking where it left off so it can continue later.

Years ago, when I began to notice the incessant chatter in my head, I started practicing very strict awareness on what was right in front of me in that very moment. While I was washing dishes, I brought my attention to the texture of the dish in my hand, the smell of the dish soap, the temperature of the water, and then gratitude in my heart for all of it.

I realized I could manage the constant babbling committee in my head by having conscious dialogue about my every movement, “I am hanging up my coat,” “I am putting my keys in the drawer,” “I am feeling the coolness of the earth on my bare feet,” etc. I would even place little post-it-notes in places where it was really easy for me to drift onto autopilot, like a note on the mirror in the bathroom stating, “I am brushing my teeth,” or one on the steering wheel, “I am driving.”

This may sound extreme and perhaps it is but I’m sharing it because it worked. It created a habit of conscious contact with the present moment, the very thing that life is offering me to notice, nothing more important than THIS. Eventually, the mind became very still. Soon after noticing stillness, I recall having a thought as the mind had a moment of panic, “I’m not thinking anything! Shouldn’t I be thinking something?” and then an exhalation and stillness again.

The wonderful outcome of this practice was discovering that everything still got done, the laundry, trips planned, time with friends, dishes, and a sweet byproduct – a sense of openness and freedom from stress and worry.

Beyond all the practical benefits of practicing presence is awakening. With the mind (or ego) now relegated to the passenger’s seat and no longer the driving force, you can call upon it when it is needed. What a priceless gift; waking up to the divine nature of life moving through form, mine, yours, the connectedness of all life, and to our infinite nature!

Much Love and Blessings to You,

“The present moment holds the key to liberation. But you cannot find the present moment as long as you are your mind.”
~Eckhart Tolle