This post teaches you how to break free from the web of thinking by watching your mind. Once you understand what this technique means, it becomes easy to apply. As a result, you rise above the mind’s influence and its content no longer troubles you.
What does it mean to watch the mind?
To watch the mind means being aware of its contents without them taking over your inner space. This practice prevents you from losing your attention in a web of thoughts. In time, you learn to step back from your mind, note its excess momentum, and allow this surplus to dissolve.
You experience the mind as thoughts, images, speech, and emotion. Together they rise and fall in your being – often without you realising. If you’re not aware of these contents, their pace builds until they engulf your inner space. You then assume that thoughts and feelings are “you”. When this occurs, you have no sense of openness. In effect, you become lost in the realm of thinking. In this state, you’re identifying with your mind and believe it’s who you are. Here, thoughts, images, speech and emotion occur in your space but don’t make up your entire being.
The most common misconception is that you are your mind and thoughts. Explore this statement and gauge if it’s true. Ask yourself: Who am I? Be alert and open to what answers come forth. Are you just your thoughts? Who is aware of these movements? When you meditate over your mind this way, realise “there” are its thoughts. “Here” you are as the present space, watching and listening to them. This realisation comes from a wisdom that rests beyond your mind and thoughts.
As you witness the mind, you activate the open awareness within you. Once you attune to this, the brain’s momentum diffuses, and you begin to “dis-identify” with its contents. This movement undoes the effects of your past conditioning and connects you with life’s wholeness. On balance, as you rest in this space, the mind’s excess energy dissolves.
How do you watch the mind?
You watch the mind by noticing when thoughts arise and feeling their energy. Here, you realise that the brain and its images are minor aspects of who you are.
The act of watching your mind is a confusing exercise at first. Most confusion arises from the mistaken idea that this method involves more thinking. In contrast, the correct understanding is that you witness your mind from a silent space. Your thoughts take place in this expanse and you don’t need to force yourself to reach it. You cannot solve the problem of excess thinking – with more thinking. Instead, learn to be aware of your mind. Here are some pointers to consider when starting this course.
Sit still and close your eyes.
The act of sitting still with closed eyes allows you to focus inward on your mind’s space.
Be alert to your mind’s contents.
Be alert to your thoughts, concerns, feelings, and how they emerge. Ask yourself, ‘what will my next thought be’? Or ‘who is the one watching my inner voices’? These questions help you remain alert to your mind. Imagine a hungry cat sitting outside a mouse-hole – waiting for the mouse to emerge. In this image, the cat symbolises you and the mouse represents your thoughts. Don’t let one thought cross your attention without you being aware of it.
Notice the urge to turn away from your mind.
Notice a great volume of energy in your head and an urge to avoid specific thoughts. You will see mental pictures and projections as you turn your gaze inward. When this happens, don’t argue with your mind or try repressing its contents. Instead, be alert to this movement and the motive to involve yourself in your thoughts. Realise that you cannot solve your mind by thinking about it. Don’t worry if you catch yourself arguing with, or involving yourself in thoughts. As you become more alert, these habits lose their power.
Sense any heaviness and tension in your body.
Thoughts and emotions are nothing more than mounds of mental energy moving through your space. You will often sense them as heaviness and tension in the body. In particular, your head, throat, midsection, chest and back. Explore these feelings as they arise and pay attention to what thoughts take place. This act of being privy to your inner space starts an awakening process that soon dissolves the body’s tension.
Practice for 5-15 minutes a day.
Any awareness exercise is tiring on the brain. The method of watching your mind is more challenging than breath or body awareness because it requires more energy. For this reason, don’t practice for long periods. In any case, five to fifteen minutes is enough.
Don’t feel discouraged if you find it hard to watch your mind.
If you find this exercise hard at first, don’t feel discouraged. It can take one or two months to develop a stable presence to become watchful. Once you’re alert to the thoughts in your space, you can stop watching the mind as a practice. From here, awareness becomes a natural part of your life.
What are the benefits of watching thoughts?
The benefits of watching thoughts are greater awareness, more wisdom, and less wasteful thinking. This approach also allows you to see your mind’s limits. As you listen to the voices in your head, note the distance from them. To illustrate this method, imagine watching a movie in a cinema or at home. The screen or TV represents thoughts, and you’re viewing them in your seat. Note the space between the screen and your chair. This region is your space of being.
Conscious awareness is when you sense a distance to watch your mind – without engaging with its contents. Witness how your brain often produces images as mental movies. This content can include heavy material that holds your attention. When such details cross your mind, it’s easy to avoid, resist, or dwell in their energy. Here you’re engaging with your thoughts and emotions. It’s common to mistake this state for being aware, but in reality, your brain’s momentum is drowning the space within you. As you sense a distance from this, your mind relaxes.
Thoughts no longer have any power and lighten once you’re aware of them in a mindful manner. In doing so, this creates a small open place within you. As this room increases, you access your natural self. It was always there under your mind’s noise.
In a conscious state of mind, when you choose to think, thoughts are sharp and relevant. Understanding how the mind works helps you realise how excess thinking is a habit. You then recognise the mental origins of your thoughts – without them pulling you into their momentum. As you do this, they cannot force you into repetitive actions. In time, powerful emotions and mental pain fade away. These are the benefits of watching your thoughts and connecting with your space of being.
Do you need to try hard to be more aware?
You don’t need to exert excessive force to grow more aware of your mind. Once you accept this, you can allow awareness and growth to happen without stress.
The first stages of awakening from the mind need your active effort. This means using a method where you learn to become more aware. It’s important to note that these techniques still involve the brain because they require you to pay attention. Despite this, you only need to apply such active effort for ten to fifteen minutes daily over one month. After this period, you’re aware of both your mind and emotions. An active effort is then no longer necessary.
The space of consciousness rests in the background, even if you’re not privy to it. For this reason, you don’t have to force awareness as a routine for lengthy periods. Excess use of any practice can become a mode of suppression. Be wise to this, as your attempts to escape thoughts tangle you further in them. Take the case of a fly trapped in a spider’s web. In this position, the more the fly struggles – the more it gets tangled. The fly can’t escape such a trap until it stops struggling. Release your conflicts in the same manner, break free from your mind, and rest in conscious space.
A slight level of awareness is enough to start personal growth. Here, you don’t need to distance yourself from inner turmoil or confusion. Once you have this stable base, the mind can’t capture you in full. Soon, this movement builds up and gains energy. After that, it keeps going until your imbalances reconcile. The life flowing through you knows how to restore harmony. This momentum and wisdom bring forth a balance. First, gain a slight level of awareness, then allow this growth to happen.
How do you use a watchful mind in daily life?
You can use a watchful mind as you wish throughout the day without pushing it toward silence. In doing this, you save time, focus, and energy to channel into your daily routine. You don’t have to stay alert once your mind is free of excess thinking.
Your mind has an active nature where it is always raising thoughts and thinking. When you practice watching these actions in an alert manner, they become quiet. Don’t aim to hold on to this effect by using force and effort. Instead, witness the active part of your mind without trying to silence it.
Don’t try silencing your brain for long because it needs to think to perform its everyday duties. These include planning work and completing chores. How are these actions affected if you keep imposing silence on your mind? What happens when you try to witness your thoughts for long periods? You find that fatigue soon results and affects your decisions. Once you activate awareness from a few short practices, you can continue with your day as usual. From here, the mind becomes steady, aware, and mature by itself. This process is gradual, and it takes time to flow into your life.
When your mind balances and empties its excess contents, you have room to re-engage with it. This time, the wisdom of awareness forms a part of your daily life. In response, the mind grows into a practical device instead of a hindrance. You can then use and explore thoughts in an aware manner – without them harming your wellbeing. Each day, you’re clear on what tasks you need to do. This clarity allows you to complete your day’s work with ease. Such an outcome is the purpose of every awareness exercise. Here, your mind is awake and free of excess thinking.