One of the most common and interesting questions about meditation is what do you think about when you meditate. I think there are mainly three parts for this question. One, should I think about anything? Two, should I purposely think about something? Three, what do I actually think about when I am meditating? As meditation is not exact science, I certainly cannot claim that I have the correct or have the most accurate answer. I am just sharing what is actually happening to me and how I interpret meditation and they are both based on my experience of daily practice of meditation. Now, let me share my two cents on this interesting topic.
Should I be Thinking When I Meditate?
Mingyur Rinpoche, the modern meditation master form Nepel, has said that all you are doing with meditation is to assign a part time job to your mind so that it doesn’t keep working on some random full time job. Since making your mind completely at rest can hardly be achieved, allowing it to work on a part time job, a simple task like repeating a mantra or observing breath, is the closest thing to shutting down your mind. Thinking is considered too complex for a part time job, so the general answer is no, you shouldn’t be thinking when you meditate. That’s not saying that you can have thoughts that flows in. I will talk about the subject of thoughts flowing in a little later in this blog post.
Should I Purposely Think about Something?
As explained in the previous section, I have explained that you want to give your mind something very easy to do and you don’t want to make your mind think as thinking is too intense to be considered a part time job for the mind. There is one exception though. Mingyur Rinpoche has talked about how you can use different things as your focus for your meditation. Types of focus such as repeating a mantra in your mind and observing your breath are the two most popular ones. For myself, I found repeating a mantra suits me the best while I know there are many people who use their breath as their focus as they find that to be the most natural way to meditate. Some people would use a single question as their focus. For example, they would think about the question “what they are grateful for” or some other questions as their focus. For me, I found that thinking about a single question is already too much as a part time job. That’s just for me though. A full time job to me can definitely be a part time job for some people. Still, if you are new to meditation, I would suggest you to choose between breath meditation and mantra mediation.
What am I Actually Thinking When I Meditate?
Although I mainly practice mantra meditation myself, there are actually thoughts or movies playing in my mind when I meditate. Let me make it clear, my goal is to not having any thoughts on purpose. These thoughts on my mind are thoughts and ideas that flow into my conscious mind from my subconscious mind. In a way, being able to let your conscious mind and your subconscious mind communicate is a very good time to catch my ego. Now, what gets interesting is whether you should thinking about the thought that comes to your mind. Both yes and no can be the answer and I will explain both.
Some People Like to Think about Their Thoughts that Flow in
I know there are some people like would chew on the thoughts and ideas that flows into their mind during meditation. One of more famous people that have said that is Tom Bilyeu of Impact Theory who is a successful entrepreneur that likes to study everything related to how the mind works. He made up the term “thinkitate” to describe his process of thinking about his problems deeply when he meditates. I am sure that can be useful for some of you but I just prefer not to meditate that way.
I Simply Say Hi to the Thoughts then Ignore Them During Meditation
What I do is that I simply “say hi” to the thoughts that flow by as taught by Mingyur Rinpoche and I don’t pay much attention to them. The next thought flows in and I say hi again. These thoughts are sometimes just the problems I am facing. Sometimes, they can be something totally random. Sometimes, they are hidden gems like possible solutions to my problems. To me, just like when I am saying hi to people on the street, there are people that look especially attractive like there are some ideas of solutions that are seems to be especially valuable. You don’t actually forget about them after saying hi. Instead, you are just ignoring them for the moment and continuing to clear your mind.
Revisiting Useful Thoughts after Meditation
After having meditation, I usually have a much sharper and clearer mind. If there are thoughts or ideas that have flow into my mind during my meditation that I can still remember vividly, that’s nice and I will take a little bit of time of think about that. If that’s nothing I can remember, that’s very nice too as that means I am free to do whatever that needs to be done with my sharp mind now. In the case where I have thoughts that I can remember, say it’s a possible solution to my current problem, I will chew on the idea and evaluate it with an open-mindedness.
In conclusion, I don’t do any intentional thinking when I meditate. Yet, during meditation, there are thoughts that flow from the subconscious mind to the conscious mind. There thoughts can be useful and they can also be some random thoughts. I don’t like to chew on these thoughts during meditation. I simply “say hi” to these thoughts and keep doing my “part time job” which is repeating my mantra in my case. After my meditation, I would re-visit the thoughts that flow in when I meditate and see if there are any hidden gems there.