How to Be Present and Peaceful When You Can’t Stop Thinking

Written by on October 20, 2018 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living, Thrive with 0 Comments

Image Credit: Tiny Buddha

By Blon Lee | Tiny Buddha

“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.” ~Eckhart Tolle

When I first started practicing Zen (or presence), I used to believe I could become completely thoughtless. Making my bed, no-thought. Washing my hands, no-thought. Walking around, no-thought. Imagine the spiritual experience!

But it wasn’t like what I thought it would be.

The reality is my mind was on full throttle all the time. No matter what I did, there would be a billion thoughts popping out from my head, preventing me from having even a moment of peace. Then I would yell at myself, “Okay, enough. Get out of your head now! Stop thinking!”

In a panic, I thought about all those concepts I’d learned. “Now which technique do I use?” I’d think to myself, “What would a master do? There must be something I can do to silence my mind…”

The harder I forced myself, the noisier my mind became. I tried so hard, but I just couldn’t do it. In fact, it just made things worse. My thoughts and inner dialogue would run even wilder. I was frustrated and angry with myself.

During my first few years of practicing Zen and meditation, I was never at peace. Not even close. But I didn’t give up.

As I learned more about spirituality, I finally found the answer. I was too hung up on killing my thoughts. I became obsessed with them, even though they were the very things I was trying to get rid of. As soon I realized that, I finally let go, and now I feel free.

Here is what I learned, and how you can do the same.

1. Understand it is impossible to silence your mind.

It’s human to have thoughts. It means you have a healthy and functioning brain. We don’t need to get rid our thoughts at all. Why?

Just like our eyes see, our ears hear, our nose smells, our tongue tastes, and our body feels, our mind thinks. If you want to get rid of a specific function, you will have to destroy the corresponding organ. The underlying message is simple: No one has a mind without thoughts, unless he or she is dead.

When I tried to stop my mind, I was actually doing the impossible. Just as I can’t make my eyes not see and my ears not hear, there is no way I can make my mind not think.

2. Don’t judge yourself.

A quiet mind is not a mind with no thoughts. Rather, it is a decision you make to embrace every emotion and thought within you.

Here’s the irony: When you embrace all your thoughts without judgment, no matter how annoying they are, your mind will calm down.

So don’t resist your thoughts. Don’t beat yourself up for thinking too much. If you do, you are giving yourself unnecessary stress and anxiety. Thinking is the core function of your mind, and you are going to hear mental dialogue whether you like it or not.

If you try to fight it, you resist what is inevitable. The more you fight your thoughts, the more you amplify them. Being non-judgmental is the key to stillness. Be okay with whatever thoughts you have, and true inner peace will come naturally.

3. Separate analysis from action.

I love to hike. When I get to the foot of the mountain, I don’t really think ahead. I focus only on the individual steps that lead me to my destination. With each step I take, in each passing moment, I admire the scenery and I savor the smell of fresh air. It’s a great way to become present.

The reason I can do this is because I know where I want to go, how to get there, and the purpose of my hike beforehand. This way, I clear my mind of all analytical thinking—about the past and future—and I can get into the present more easily.

Whenever you analyze, you are always thinking into the past and future. This takes you away from the beauty of the present moment.

Of course, challenges and unexpected things happen. But as you deal with them with a defined purpose, your thinking stays within the present rather than thinking ahead, worrying, and giving yourself unwanted stress.

Separate analytical thinking from action. Plan beforehand. Know exactly what to do before you start. Have a clear purpose and defined steps you would take.


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