Don’t go to Yoga and try to block out the day’s thoughts; go to Yoga and fully involve yourself in your physical experience. Stop being thought-aware and start being body-conscious. Forget the ego-you and invest your time in your true self.
If you find it challenging to stay mindful then divide your day into sections. For instance, when you rise in the morning, rather than doing a bunch of thinking about your entire day, instead just think about the next brief section of time. Choose your action—making breakfast, having a shower, getting ready for your morning run—whatever it is—and then simply do that.
Don’t do it with a bunch of thoughts tangled around the actions like the dust-cloud that follows the Pigpen character from Peanuts. Just like someone in Yoga class, simply invest your consciousness in your Being. Stop talking to yourself and simply Be.
Turn making coffee into a yoga-like experience. When you pour your morning coffee, note the weight of the cup changing as you pour it in. As you stir in the sugar, notice how the tone of the clinking of the spoon against the glass will change in pitch until the sugar is either dissolved or the coffee is saturated, and then the tone of the clinking will even off. Listen for your footsteps on the floor. Invest yourself in trying to move as silently or fluidly as you can. Bottom line: stop all the self-talking and fully do whatever you’re doing.
At first you will run into your thinking frequently. It’s a habit you’ve built and reinforced since you were about three or four years old so give yourself some time to get used to having a quiet mind. That’s why the sections of life are good. If you’re jogging just invest yourself in the running motion. Choose each footstep. Feel it. And do your best not to think until the next tree, or the next block, or until you pass that parked car. And if you do talk, fine. That’s not surprising. Just create a new section and go quiet again until you reach it.
Sometimes you’ll get there and you’ll have talked to yourself most of the way, sometimes you’ll get there elated that you could feel you were fully conscious of your actual experience without the yakking comments and judgments of ego, but it’s important not to carry that into the next section. So you don’t drive from this light to that light silently and then spend the next two lights talking to yourself about how good you’re doing. And don’t get there and realise you were talking and then add to the issue by taking up the next section talking about the talking you did in the previous section. Just start each section the same way. Always begin again. Each new moment is blank.
The nice thing about this exercise is that it teaches you to regularly check in with your personal thinking. That’s all an ego’s made of so it’s important to only employ word-based thinking when we absolutely need to, rather than habitually doing it about things that aren’t affected by thought.
Take today and divide it into sections and do your best to think as little as you can between each marker. If you did this earnestly for even one month, you would become enormously better at having a quiet mind. And if you have a quiet mind, it soon becomes a receiver rather than a transmitter and that is when you awaken.
Each day, each moment you must re-awaken yourself. Stay conscious not of words in your head but instead focus on the experiences that are flowing through you. This is why children are always fascinated and filled with wonder. They are not interested in judging things as big or small or good or bad, they simply respond to their nature. Be childlike. Don’t use thoughts to second-guess your nature.
All of your planning and worrying isn’t leading to an awesome life. So abandon the thinking, segment your life and focus on not-thinking. Because as the Buddha said, you reach Enlightenment when “The no-mind not-thinks no-thoughts about no-things.”
Now I’m going to pour a coffee. On the way there, I’ll listen to my footsteps and then I’ll feel the temperature of the cup change as I add the hot coffee. As I do these things my thoughts will be silent because my consciousness will be fully involved in what I’m doing. That’s why so many people who take my course talk about becoming less clumsy. They aren’t really less clumsy—they’re more aware. So the only important thought to think today is: what’s your next section marker going to be?
Like a car rolling forward in gear, your day will happen regardless. Rather than sitting in the passenger seat talking to yourself while the car of your life randomly wanders, quiet your thinking and jump in behind the wheel and simply steer. Because it’s absolutely amazing where that will take you.
Enjoy your day—consciously.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organisations around the world.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.