This post teaches you how to break free from the web of thinking by watching the mind. In short, having this ability helps you rise above it. You will also gain a deeper understanding of what it means to observe thoughts and how to practice this.
What does it mean to watch your mind, and why should you do it?
You feel the mind within you as various forms of thought and emotion. Together they rise and fall in your being, often without you realising. As time passes, their momentum tends to build until you take notice. Eventually, they get to a point where they take over your being. It can feel like the thoughts and feelings are ‘you’ and there is no sense of space to manage them. In this case, both you and the mind have become lost in each other.
A common term to describe this state is when you feel totally ‘identified’ with thinking. In brief, this is when you assume that you are your thoughts. Or to put it differently, you think that the activity of your brain defines who you are.
The mind is part of the brain, and both work together to help you survive. However, in order to fulfil this purpose, you have to connect with your wholeness. This is the space that exists outside the boundaries of thought. When you link with this openness, there is a new level of intelligence. The act of watching thoughts is a simple way to meet with this space.
As soon as you know that its the mind catching you in its movement, you break free of its grip. Without a doubt, this is the biggest step you can make toward becoming free from all mental suffering. The main reason for this is that the structure of thoughts can no longer hide. As a result, they arise to the surface of your attention where they dissolve with no effort on your part.
How do you watch your mind?
At first, the act of observing yourself can seem like a confusing exercise. Most questions arise from the mistaken idea that watching means more thinking. On the contrary, the ability to watch comes from a silent space. Here you realise that both the brain and thinking are only one aspect of who you are.
A simple exercise you can do is to spend some time noticing your thoughts, feelings and how they emerge.
Ask yourself, ‘what will my next thought be’? Or “who is the one watching my inner voices? Sit patiently, and allow yourself the space to explore these questions. It may be helpful to close your eyes as you do this practice. At this point, you will notice a lot of activity in your brain and an urge to avoid certain thoughts. It’s also common to see mental images and projections. You do not need to worry or be concerned if this happens. The fact that you are alert to this activity taking place is a huge step in the right direction.
In addition to thoughts, witness your emotions as they move through your body. Emotions are nothing more than heavy mounds of thought energy. Due to this, you often feel them as heaviness and tension in the body. In particular, your head, throat, midsection, chest and back. Explore these feelings inside you and pay attention to what thoughts take place at the same time. Do not try to argue, repress, or get rid of anything. Watching your feelings and thoughts is enough to start the process of awakening.
It can take time to develop enough stability to become watchful. Do not feel discouraged if you find it challenging at the start. Soon you will sense a strong ability to be attentive.
What are the benefits of watching thoughts?
Watching thoughts is one of the many techniques that help you to see the limits of your mind. As you start listening to the voices in your head, you soon realise that you have a distance from them.
To illustrate this, imagine watching a movie in a cinema. The movie screen is basically your thoughts. You are the one watching in the seat. Furthermore, the area between the screen and seat is your space of being.
Your brain often shows images in the form of mental movies. There is no end to the type of material it can come up with. However, once you can observe a thought, it no longer holds any power over you. Soon after, it quickly disappears, creating a small space within you. As these spaces increase, you access your natural self. In truth, it was always there underneath your thoughts.
When you choose to think your thoughts will be clear and relevant. As you understand how your mind works, you realise how excessive thinking is just a habit. Any type of thoughts that drive compulsions and habits will also be clear to you. This makes it much easier to recognise them as they come up. In due time you will be able to observe such thoughts without them forcing you into repetitive actions.
Soon enough, thoughts and strong emotions will fade away on their own. In effect, worries and painful states of mind will leave you permanently.
Do you need to try to be more aware?
In the early stages, you would need to apply some effort to become wise to your thinking. This is why techniques are active practices and still involve the mind. For the most part, because you are taking action to watch and observe.
The process of learning this skill does not take long. In any case, a month of daily practice is all that you should need. Soon enough, you will be highly observant of your brain, body and emotions.
Do not overdo or use any method as a way of shutting down or avoiding anything. In reality, too much use of these practices can trap you in their web. The mind cannot hide from itself, and the more you try to escape your thoughts, the more you become caught.
Take the case of a fly in a spider’s web. As the fly continues to struggle, it becomes more entangled. Only when the fly lets go of struggle is it able to escape the trap.
On account of this, do not worry about trying hard to distance yourself from anything within you. Even the smallest amount of awareness is enough for the mind to not fully catch you in its grasp. For anyone starting on this journey, that is all you need.
Soon this movement of consciousness builds up and gains its own energy within you. Thereafter, it keeps going until all your imbalances clear out from your space. It is this momentum and wisdom beyond thinking that brings about a balance in you.