Wellness, Home & Lifestyle

Working With Thoughts While Meditating

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Lesson time 21:38 min

Learn tips and tricks for wrangling even the most restless mind while meditating.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Using Objects to Focus Attention • Be a Thought Mirror • Work With a Wandering Mind, Not Against It • Watch the Game, Not the Commentary


[INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC] - Among the misconceptions about meditation is one where, like, if you're meditating, your mind will be blank or will be clear. That you'll make your mind blank. Which is, of course, ridiculous. First of all, you can't make your mind blank. And if you try, you're just going to wind up with a gigantic headache. And second of all, I mean, it would not be desirable because a blank mind-- what is that? There's no awareness whatsoever. But when we're sitting, for instance, and we're attending to experience, especially in the early stages when you haven't practiced a lot with mindfulness of thinking, your thinking can seem like an obstacle. "Damn, I'd be a great mindfulness practitioner if it weren't for the fact that these thoughts just won't leave me alone. They're just buzzing around me like flies, like mosquitoes." Sometimes a classical analogy is that the mind is a lot like a large body of water, like the ocean. And depending on atmospheric conditions, it can be totally calm, and we've all had moments at least glimpses where we were so calm that it felt really, really, really, special. And we can even remember those very few moments in our lives when we felt so calm. And then the mind starts going and becomes sometimes seriously oppressive, and we want to be freed from it, liberated from this oppressive mind. And the idea is like, "if only I could learn to meditate, just shut off my mind, then everything would be great. Make my mind go blank." Well, that's tantamount to taking a body of water like the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Ocean, or whatever it is, and expecting that it should always be flat. Yes, when atmospheric conditions are just right-- as sailors know-- you could be calmed for days, that there's no wind and the water is like glass. That same ocean, the next day, can have waves 100 feet high. Enormously turbulent. It's just like that with the surface of the mind. The thoughts are the waves. They're turbulent and they're driven by emotions. So depending on circumstances and how caught up you are in the emotional valence of whatever you're thinking about, of the circumstances you're in, it can be really tumultuous, and really stressful, and really disorienting. But-- we all know this, too-- if you drop down under the surface of the ocean 20 or 30 meters, even in the midst of hurricane-force waves and wind, gentle undulation. Just total calm. It's the same with the mind. That the more you learn to drop in, even though things are agitated up here and caught up and so forth, when you drop into awareness itself, that agitation is already in a much, much bigger space. Almost as if to reverse the direction-- instead of going down where there's nothing but stillness, if you go up 30,000 or 40,000 feet in an airplane, Those waves look like just little ripples in the mind. Well, that's what the meditation practice can offer, is a new way to be in relationship with the waving of the mind so tha...

About the Instructor

A pioneer of the Western mindfulness movement, Jon Kabat-Zinn has spent more than 40 years studying, teaching, and advocating the benefits of mindfulness. In his MasterClass, he teaches you how to cultivate a mindfulness practice, reduce your stress, and soothe your thoughts with meditation and movement. Jon shares expert tips and guidance that meets you where you are. Let this class help you make the most of being alive.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn teaches you how to incorporate meditation into your everyday life to improve your health and happiness.

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