Meditation Techniques for Thought Control

DR. KRISHNA BHATTA

Buddha said, “You are what you think.” This has been quoted ever since he said these words all around the world. However, this is an incomplete statement. There is a second part of this statement that Buddha worked all his life to give to us. The complete statement should be like this, “You are what you think, but you are not your thoughts.” There is a distinction between thoughts and you.

Furthermore, meditation is a journey from thoughts to no-thoughts. There are no thoughts, no waves and no mind-noises. There is just pure existence. Yet, when realized people like Buddha or Krishna have to communicate, they also have to use the same mind and thoughts that we do. But, they use mind & thoughts as and when they need to, rather than be bombarded by thoughts even when they do not want them.

The exercises and details mentioned below overlap for one who is thinking. The quality of energy imparted to a thought varies from individual to individual depending upon their state of existence.

One of the most difficult aspects of any meditation technique is managing thoughts. Thoughts keep coming. That is the reason I have developed these exercises for thought management. Once you get to know how to do thought management, it becomes easier to go into any meditative technique. Besides, these also help in sharpening the mind, developing control of the mind and help in brainstorming on a particular topic without any interference from mind noise. These exercises help you to get to the point. You experience that gap between you and the thoughts that traverse your mind.

Multiplicity of Thoughts

We all know that our mind is active all the time. There is noise in there. Chatter is going on all the time. Is there only one thought at a time or are there multiple thoughts traversing the mind at any given time? I get up in the morning. I want to have tea. I also have to brush my teeth. Do I wake up my wife? My daughter and her daughter are home. I would love to play with my granddaughter. Also, I have to write my article for the magazine. What about my golf? I must get my tee time. All these thoughts and more are in coexistence with me at one time. I do want to remind you that these are just exercises. We are talking about halfhour meditative exercises. All exercises help you to deal with real life situations. The applications are automated. Once you have the tools of dealing with thoughts, you will apply the tools in real life. Practice makes it a real possibility.

The steps are:

  • Understand: Understand the underlying principles of the exercises.
  • Exercise: Do the exercises as directed in half-hour blocks.
  • Apply: Application in real life follows. In the beginning you may have to make an effort; later it becomes effortless. It becomes a way of life for you.
  • Practice: Keep practicing 1, 2 and 3. We will discuss more about this later.

“We all know that our mind is active all the time. There is noise in there. Chatter is going on all the time.”

Caution

There are two things that might happen to you or anyone doing these exercises, and you have to recognize them and be prepared to handle the fallouts from these:

1. There is going to be a change in your behavior, a change in how you deal with and process thought waves. You are going to be less predictable once that happens. This might affect relationship with close ones. Your spouse might find your behavior strange. Your wife comes home late and you are not disturbed. In the past you might have thrown tantrums if that happened. Now you know better. You will simply find out what happened. There might be a good reason for her to have been late. Your wife may have a pleasant surprise. The situation may take a turn. There may be occasions when someone may want to see you upset. Why are you not upset? Equilibrium has been reached between you and your surroundings. Change disturbs that equilibrium. A new equilibrium needs to be established. Sometimes it may become a problem. You are doing these exercises to bring peace to yourself and your surroundings. The contrary may happen. This is not what you may have planned for. I want you to know this beforehand so that you can prepare yourself for what may come in your life. A new balance may need to be re-established in certain relationships. You can handle it better if you understand that it might happen.

2. As mentioned above, a change happens inside you by practice of meditative exercises. This change affects your outlook to life. Suddenly the world changes. You used to get up at 8 am in the morning. Now you get up at 5:30 am and are ready to do your yoga or meditative exercises before you go to work. It feels so good. You are full of positive energy. Now you want the whole world to behave this way. You want your son and daughter to also get up at the same time and get going the same way as you do. This impulse has to be recognized. You may want to share this newfound exercise with every one around you, but you need to resist enforcing on others your newfound love. You also need to avoid judging people according to your new standards. You have helped yourself by doing these exercises. It is good to share, but it is also good to resist imposing yourself on others. A balance has to be reached.

“This is to know what kind of traffic goes through your mind. This exercise is very individual. Honesty is the best policy here.”

Exercise 1
Knowing the Mind

This is to know what kind of traffic goes through your mind. This exercise is very individual. Honesty is the best policy here. Just watch what kind of thoughts your mind allows. You may be a gateway for negative thoughts. You may be a positive person. No explanation or judgment is needed. A pure screening of who you are is the purpose. Awareness of thoughts is important. Thoughts often flow like waves, uninterrupted and abundant. Eyes closed and in meditative pose, watch the thoughts travel through your mind.

Attempt this exercise for at least half an hour each day in the first week that you practice it. You have to make sure that you do not get attached to any thought. Also, don’t stop or interrupt any thought. Let them run through your mind. The mind has a tendency to get attached to some kind of thought – good or bad, try to remain neutral through this exercise. If you find yourself getting attached to any one thought, start afresh. The mind may get bored and you’ll be tempted to abandon the exercise, but stay with it. Set the time as half an hour and persist with getting to know your mind.

Exercise 2
Dropping All Thoughts

The next step is Mind Control. This technique is going to be a hallmark of all future techniques. So, it needs to be practiced as much as possible in your life. The idea is to drop any and all thoughts that come through. You don’t have to be discriminating in this – any and all thoughts should be dropped. Some thoughts may reappear repeatedly. You need to drop them as many times as they appear. Just the fact that you can drop any thought at will gets you one step closer to controlling your mind. Indiscriminate dropping of thoughts is vital. This exercise is also meant as a half hour to one hour session at the most.

Exercise 3
Processing of Thoughts

The third step of this meditation technique is probably the most advanced – it takes perseverance and persistence. This exercise is going to give us the tool to identify and deal with one thought at a time. This exercise is not about prioritization. It is not giving advice about which thoughts to choose. It is about choice.

Goal

  1. Directing the mind to a particular thought (brain storming)
  2. Processing thoughts
  3. Generating positive energy
    1. Positive thinking
    2. Positive imaging
    3. State of positivity
  4. Getting familiar with the supermind
  5. Having an undercurrent of thought themes
  6. Understanding the basics of non-attachment

“Thoughts are traversing as usual in your mind. The idea is to pick up a random thought and then stay with it for five to ten minutes.”

Begin the practice

Step 1: Pick Up a Thought

Thoughts are traversing as usual in your mind. The idea is to pick up a random thought and then stay with it for five to ten minutes. The important part is the randomness of choice. You just pick up any thought that comes to mind. Then start dropping all other thoughts. Just play with the one thought you have chosen.

Step 2: Non-Attachment

It is important to understand the fact that you are just picking up the thought randomly and providing energy to the thought for processing purposes. You are not allowing the  thought to get attached to you. You will go through all the “ifs” and “buts,” but you are going to maintain a distance between the “you” (self) and the thoughts.

Step 3: Process the Thought with Positive Energy

This exercise is about processing any thought. You need to be able to process all kinds of thoughts, good or bad, right or wrong. Once you are able to process the thoughts that you randomly pick up, it becomes easier to process a thought of your choice. So random thoughts have to be picked up and processed with positive energy for 5 to 10 minutes.

Step 4: Dropping of the Thought

At the end of this period the processed thought has to be dropped. The drop should be complete. It is as if the processing never happened. If it tries to come back, it has to be dropped again and again. This thought is not picked up again during this half-hour block and preferably never again in future exercises. Also, it is important that the thoughtis not allowed to attach to you. The next random thought is then picked up, processed and dropped. There should not be more than 5-10 thoughts that are picked up and processed in the half-hour block. Also important is the fact that no thought is processed for more than 10 minutes. If you are keeping a thought for over 10 minutes, it may mean that you are getting close to getting attached to that thought.

“Even negative thoughts can be practiced in a positive fashion. There is no thought or event that does not have a positive side to it.”

Explanations: Processing of Thoughts with Positive Energy

Thoughts or events that lead to generation of thoughts are generally neutral. We provide them energy (negative or positive) to go further. It is also important to remember that positive things generally happen around positive people. It is not that negative things do not happen to such people. The incidence of negative phenomenon around such people is less.

Let us take a simple example. You are playing golf and you hit a ball. The ball slices and disappears in the woods. You are frustrated. How could this happen to you? You throw your clubs and start swearing. You take a drop and hit the next ball. This one goes astray as well. You have lost your center. You are still in an upset mode. You are not back to your happy point. The same event could be processed in a positive fashion. The ball has gone to the woods. How do I recover from it? I should get my next shot right. A good friend of mine, Brian Jumper, plays good golf. I asked him for some tips and he said, “It is all mental.” He knows it is not all mental, but what he is trying to tell is that mind plays a great role in the game of golf.

It is important to realize that the processing of thoughts should be performed without letting the thought getting attached to you. You need to pick up any random thought that comes to your mind and process it. Processing requires energy from you. Prior to processing, it was just a thought. It is like a wild beautiful flower in a jungle. It just exists. Once a man comes near the flower, a new poetry arises. Making of a poem however natural, requires energy. Another man may want to dig the flower plant and destroy nature in the process. And yet another man may smoke his cigarette and throw carelessly in the wild forest which might start a wild fire. That wild fire may cause destruction and also cost money and lives in the process.

What is the point? The point I am trying to make here is the kind of energy you provide in processing the thoughts is important. Positive energy is what you need to use in processing these thoughts in these exercises. Since these exercises are meditative exercises, there may be inadvertent materialization of your thought processes. Therefore it is important that you do not provide negative energy to any thoughts during these exercises. Otherwise, you might cause the wild fire effect in some form or the other. Also, since you will be working on a certain thought intensely for approximately 5-10 minutes, you might also affect or pollute the universal thought pool if you impart lots of negative energy to that particular thought.

Positive Thinking

Most people understand what positive thinking is. They all want to bring this to their lives, but are not able to do it when they want to. The reason is that they are not used to doing so. Exercise 1 is meant to help you know what kind of thoughts you currently have & how you currently process your thoughts. This is how you have been doing it all your life. Any change takes time and practice. These half-hour exercises are going to provide you a platform for positive thinking. If you practice these half-hour sessions for several months, you walk around with positive energy and that is what you will have whenever any thought or event happens around you. Even negative thoughts can be practiced in a positive fashion. There is no thought or event that does not have a positive side to it.

“Be open to input from the outside universe while processing the thought that you have randomly picked up.”

Positive Imaging

One of my patients introduced me to this process. The patient had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had done his homework and wanted me to do his surgery. How can he control the outcome of his surgery by me? The patient gave me a book on positive imaging by Reverend Vincent Peele. It takes us beyond the world of thinking and places in the realm of imaging. The patient would imagine that he is on the operating table and I am doing his surgery. The surgery atmosphere is wonderful. The anesthesia is going well. The nurses are doing their job efficiently. The surgeon is doing his job. There is very little bleeding, if any. All this goes on to the end of surgery and he recovers well. Is this dreaming or is this positive imaging to the details? His outcome was excellent. Though there have been excellent outcomes in other patients who did not do positive imaging before their surgery, this does add a dimension of possibility to our lives. If you can image your thoughts you should try this technique during these exercises.

Positive State of Existence

The goal of these exercises is to get to this state of living. By doing exercise 1, you have already determined what kind of thoughts flow naturally through your head. Many of the successful people or high efficiency people have a natural positive state when it comes to the area they excel in. If you are one of these successful people you may want to work on areas where you tend to have negative thoughts. You may be very successful in making money. People follow you as a leader in the financial field. You may be on the cover of all the financial magazines. Yet, you may be very lonely inside. Positive energy helps you become a complete person. You have found your happy point. There still may be a problem with your spouse. You may not be talking to your son. But, it is okay. Once the negativity is out, you will be fulfilled as you are. Fulfillment on the outside just follows. Life outside is a reflection of the state of existence inside. Once everything is at peace inside, you become peaceful outside. Thought management is not really enough to bring about these changes.

Meditation works much better. Meditation also helps generate energy which then can be conserved in the form of a positive energy state. Positive thinking then comes naturally to you.

“Life outside is a reflection of the state of existence inside. Once everything is at peace inside, you become peaceful outside.”

It is worth taking a note from Krishna, from Bhagavad Gita, who talks about the attributes of such a person (who is able to take part in nishkam karma):

nehabhikrama-naso ‘sti pratyavayo na vidyate svalpam apy asya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat
In this, there is no waste of the unfinished attempt, nor is there production of contrary results. Even very little of this Dharma protects from great fear.

  1. No effort of nishkam karma is wasted
  2. There are no obstacles (pratyavaya) in the path of nishkam karma, and
  3. Nishkama karma protects one from the greatest fear.

The Supermind

By and by this exercise will prepare you for the ultimate brainstorming power. Once you are able to do the exercise as above for a few weeks, you will need to expand your horizons. Be open to input from the outside universe while processing the thought that you have randomly picked up. As if you have stopped your input and processing, it is just you and your random thought and nothing else. You with your thought are just waiting for some miracle to happen. And suddenly it does happen. You are now dipping into what Aurobindo has called the “Supermind.” You are one with this Supermind. Now you are able to process the thoughts at a different level. You are not alone. The input is coming from all around. You may need to develop a meditative mind to get there, but it is possible. Meditation then will start to have a greater meaning in your life at that point. We will stay here with thought management for the time being.

Thought Theme Undercurrent

This is an application of this exercise in regular life. In real life you can make one thought theme an undercurrent. You may have several parallel undercurrents running without any conflict with each other. Once you are able to pick up and stay with one thought without distraction; you will enjoy life on a different plane.

Let me give a simple example. I am a physician. One undercurrent thought theme in my professional life is “quality patient care.” I was in office yesterday (Thursday) seeing patients. It was a busy day as usual. There was a patient, diagnosed with prostate cancer, who had come to see me. Let us call him John Doe. He is scheduled for surgery for removal of prostate coming Monday in 4 days’ time. He wants to get it done and be over with. The patient has a high grade cancer. The CT scan and liver ultrasound suggest that there may be minute metastasis in the liver. It is not clear. Rather, it is inconclusive. I do not have the images. The chances that there is liver metastasis are low. I try to contact the radiologist, who reported, to get more insight into his thinking. The radiologist is out until the next Monday. I talk to the patient and his family. They want to get it over with. Pressure is there. I go with the flow. The patient signs off on the consent form and all is set. He leaves the office happy that surgery will be performed on the coming Monday. All the paperwork is done. Everyone concerned is informed. I start seeing other patients and dealing with their issues. “The Quality Patient Care” undercurrent is still there. A thought comes about John Doe. The x-ray images are on my computer and I can talk to another radiologist and discuss his case. I can see images too, but I do not have much experience about liver mets or lesions. So, I pick up the phone and call the radiologist at another center where I work. We have a five minute discussion. The radiologist understands the situation and gives his feelings about the liver lesions. We feel that we should postpone the surgery and do some follow up images and have a better report of his status before proceeding further. This is what we go ahead with. I explain it to the patient and he is okay with that line of thinking.

Probably other physicians in this situation would have acted in a similar fashion without having the knowledge of undercurrent thought theme. They all have this undercurrent instilled in them while being trained as a responsible urologist. The exercise mentioned above brings these undercurrents to a conscious level. Some undercurrents already exist in your life. You may want to get rid of some of these undercurrent thought themes once you become aware of them.

And now that you have learned how to drop and add undercurrents, you may find it easier to get rid of some of these undercurrent themes.

Non-Attachment

By now you have picked up a thought, processed it as far as you can and have dropped it. You did not allow any of these thoughts to be attached to you. They were there just for the exercise. You thought about the game of golf intensely. Yet, the game was never there. You shot from the tee and perhaps made a birdie. But, the birdie was not real. There was no attachment. This is the basis of non-attachment. Can this same principle be applied to real life? Is there no attachment in real life? We are born non-attached. We with help of our parents and the environment learn to attach. Every attachment disappears with our death. Exercise 3 lets you practice picking up a thought and processing it intensely for a few minutes. Remember to drop it completely as well. Then and then only will you get a glimpse of non-attachment. Whether you would like to taste this or not is up to you, but do not be in a hurry to come to a conclusion about this intriguing topic.

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