When I was meditating recently, I was aware of how our random thoughts interfere with our being present. When we meditate, we are sufficiently focused on our breath that when random thoughts arise, as they almost always do, we are able to just observe them but not engage them and let them subside. But when we are off the cushion, we do not have that awareness and our mind generates thoughts virtually nonstop, 24/7. It is a perpetual motion machine. These thoughts may not engage us, but they always distract us.
In previous posts, I have written on my progress in freeing myself from thoughts of the past and thoughts of the future, not just obsessive ones but innocuous ones as well. But that still leaves all the random thoughts about whatever, as well as thoughts about today, which is really both past and future, that interfere with my being present, fully focused and engaged in whatever I am doing at that moment. But in this instance, I did not revolt.
Of course, from the Buddhist perspective, thought is not who I am. Thought defines, or is generated by, my ego, but that is not who I am. Who I am is my true Buddha nature, and my true Buddha nature observes without the intervention of thought. For a Buddhist, a more accurate statement proving ones existence and ones self is, “I am, therefore I am.” One’s true Buddha nature just is.
Now, there is certainly a place for thought in the life of a Buddhist. In fact, life is not possible without thought. Whether it’s thinking about what to make for dinner, or where to go to school, or how to pay for the children’s schooling ... the list is never ending ... one has to apply rational thought in order to address all the decisions one has to make daily about ones life.
But in order for this thinking process to be as fruitful as possible, and in order for it not to interfere with our being present in the moment, it is important that time be set aside to think about the things that need thought. We need to train ourselves to think only when called upon to think and not have this never-ending stream of consciousness that interferes with our being present and experiencing the moment. This will be far from easy to accomplish.
As I go deeper and deeper in my meditation, I find that the challenges become successively greater, rather than easier, because I am going further and further into the recesses of my ego-mind. I had thought at one stage of my practice that as you move forward, the path would get easier. And in many ways that is the case. But it is also true that every time one penetrates one dharma gate. you find another one behind it that needs to be opened.