“Meditation is warm-up exercise for the mind, so that you can jog through the rest of the day without getting agitated or spraining your patience.” — Eknath Easwaran in Conquest of Mind via Brian Johnson’s PhilosophersNotes
Mindfulness Meditation & Mental Soap Bubbles
Mindfulness is, in the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, “paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, without judgment.”
As you are learning to practice mindfulness or meditate mindfully, Kabat-Zinn recommends a “light touch” when you are confronted with stray thoughts that try to distract you. You simply look at these thoughts as they rise up, notice them, and watch them drift away and pop like soap bubbles. You might say something like this to yourself: “Oh there it goes. I’m worrying… worrying.” Or “There’s another. I’m thinking and remembering,” and so on. What happens when you apply this “light touch” is that the thoughts just bubble up, drift around, and vanish. You don’t engage them in a battle, you don’t give them power, and they simply disappear.
As I noted in my podcast Practice Mindfulness, Kabat-Zinn’s advice to apply a “light touch” to intruding thoughts and his image of soap bubbles popping is the most useful guidance I ever received regarding meditation. Before I acquired this frame of reference I would waste half my meditation time trying to force myself to concentrate while simultaneously gritting my teeth and battling mental intruders. Instead of bringing peace, my meditation time was a kind of silent warfare.
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