Why do we find it challenging to focus on a task sometimes?
You’re trying to finish reading an email thread so you can send a reply and be done for the day. Just one last task, and yet your mind is on anything but the words on the screen. Dinner, the weekend, the clothes in the dryer, plane tickets, your in-laws, mango lassi… what is the deal with the incessant thinking in our awareness?
The mind serves up thoughts constantly as a coping mechanism. It’s solving the problem we set it to, which is, “How can I be happier compared to how I feel right now?”
Our brains have evolved to solve problems of survival and keep us alive. As the brain responds to stimuli, it is constantly gathering information about how to outrun predators and adapt to environmental changes. All of that information gets filtered through our conscious mind anytime we find the present task less than 100% enthralling and bliss-inducing (which is 99% of the time).
So what can we do about incessant thinking?
First of all, realize that it isn’t “bad.” It doesn’t mean you’re not conscious or are somehow unspiritual. The body responds to inputs and stressors with thoughts.
But here’s the thing about a mind that thinks incessantly: it is not a contented mind. A truly happy and contented mind would have no need to source thoughts and reactions when they were not relevant for the need of the time.
Don’t be so hard on your mind…
We’ve all been conditioned to have discontent, busy minds by the nature of our physiology and the nurture of the unquantifiable volumes of stimuli we’re exposed to every day. Add a subconscious search for ‘I want to be happy,’ and presto, you have the perfect recipe for a chronically distracted, overactive mind.
A discontented mind reflects the presence of stress.
It doesn’t mean you’re not capable of being happy. Our bodies accumulate stress each time we have a change in expectations or an overwhelming experience for our nervous system.
To be a human is to accumulate stress when demands in life ramp up, or things don’t go the way we think they will.
Here are 2 ways to deal with incessant thinking:
- Force the mind to cancel each thought, or try to not think. If you find this challenging, you’re in good company. This is the hard way. Why? Because what we resist, persists. As soon as you say, ‘don’t think about elephants’… you’re thinking about elephants. When you command the mind to stop thinking, you’re thinking about not thinking, and how frustrating it is to be bad at not thinking.
- Give the mind what it wants: happiness. This does not refer to positive thinking. It refers to actually satisfying the mental process of searching for happiness. When we take the mind to total relaxation through meditation, it experiences happiness and bliss in a relaxed state.
In this video, Thom talks about these 2 methods to deal with incessant thinking
- Why ‘not thinking’ doesn’t work.
- How the mantra leads the mind to experience the happiness it is looking for
- How experiencing deep rest in Vedic Meditation trains the mind to be happy, instead of searching for happiness.
Here is the paradigm shift:
- A contented mind will stay on any subject for as long as you want, with no concentration required.
- A busy, discontented mind cannot be forced to stop searching for what it wants through thinking. This kind of mind can never be silenced.
Effortless focus is a result of contact with the unbounded field, or unbounded consciousness. So, give yourself permission to stop trying not to think, and learn how to use a Vedic Meditation mantra to effortlessly coax the mind into happy, quiet relaxation.
Jai Guru Deva