As some of you know, I have a daily meditation practice – and I follow the Vipassana technique for meditation. When I tell people about meditation, one of the most commonly asked questions is, so can you stop thinking? Do thoughts go away when you meditate? 

The answer to that question is NO. And the goal of meditation is not to get rid of thoughts but to watch them as they arise and pass away without getting attached to them or making them personal. Of course, it is possible that there may be no thoughts for a small moment or so, but that cannot last for long.

Quote stating that thoughts arise and pass away unless grasped by attention

So, what do we do with thoughts – our thinking mind that creates our life, reality. The ultimate goal is to realize that the thoughts are just a bunch of words and rarely have anything to do with you. As you progress in meditation, watching thoughts becomes easier without attaching the ‘I’ to them. For example, one of your direct reports applied for another role without letting you know, and you get to know from the recruiter. Thoughts like, ‘Why did not he tell me? We are close’ or ‘How rude of him to not tell me?’ etc., may arise. If you can watch these arise as if they have nothing to do with you – then you have got it. The fact of the matter is that your associate applied for another job – that’s it. But our EGO, in its desire to stay alive, makes it all about you.

And the mind is tricky – it will do anything to survive. Another way to make thoughts go away is to meet them with understanding. Once you have questioned your thoughts with clarity – they will lose power over you. For example, let’s say you are walking in a desert and suddenly you spot a green coiled narrow thing that your mind interprets as a snake. You are brave, and you decide to question that thought, so you go near the snake or look at it through binoculars only to realize that it is a rope. Once you know from your own experience that it is a rope and snake, the fear will leave you and will never come back.

Such is the case with thoughts. If you question them and realize for yourself that they are all harmless ropes and not snakes – then the thoughts will not bother you. This is easier said than done because, for most of us, there is little to no gap between a thought arising and us believing it. Regardless of when it happens, if you can question your thoughts using an outline in Byron Katie’s website, you have started your journey to disassociate from thoughts.

Picture that can be a rope or a snake

And as you spend more time examining your thoughts, you will begin to see that majority of the thoughts are just ropes. With that realization, thoughts will not bother you anymore because you know they are just thoughts – wisps of clouds that arise and pass away. They take form when you attach meaning to them.

Are you ready to find out if your thoughts are snakes or ropes?

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