Meditation-Not to be Confused with Positive Thinking
Our ability to think the way we do differentiates our species from all others and is miraculous beyond compare. But if we are not careful, our thinking can easily crowd out other equally precious and miraculous facets of our being. Wakefulness is often the first casualty. Awareness is not the same as thought. It lies beyond thinking, although it makes use of thinking, honoring its value and its power. Awareness is more like a vessel which can hold and contain our thinking, helping us to see and know our thoughts as thoughts rather than getting caught up in them as reality. The thinking mind can at times be severely fragmented. In fact, it almost always is. This is the nature of thought. But awareness, teased out of each
moment with conscious intent, can help us to perceive that even in the midst of this fragmentation, our fundamental nature is already integrated and
whole. Not only is it not limited by the potpourri of our thinking mind, awareness is the pot which cradles all the fragments, just as the soup pot holds all the chopped-up carrots, peas, onions, and the like and allows them to cook into one whole, the soup itself. But it is a magical pot, much like a sorcerer’s pot, because it cooks things without having to do anything, even put a fire underneath it. Awareness itself does the cooking, as long as it is sustained. You just let the fragments stir while you hold them in awareness. Whatever comes up in mind or body goes into the pot, becomes part of the soup. Meditation does not involve trying to change your thinking by thinking some more. It involves watching thought itself. The watching is the holding. By watching your thoughts without being drawn into them, you can learn something profoundly liberating about thinking itself, which may help you to be less of a prisoner of those thought patterns – often so strong in us – which are narrow, inaccurate, self-involved, habitual to the point of being imprisoning, and also just plain wrong.
Another way to look at meditation is to view the process of thinking itself as a waterfall, a continual cascading of thought. In cultivating mindfulness, we are going beyond or behind our thinking, much the way you might find a vantage point in a cave or depression in the rock behind a waterfall. We still see and hear the water, but we are out of the torrent. Practicing in this way, our thought patterns change by themselves in ways that nourish integration, understanding, and compassion in our lives, but not because we are trying to make them change by replacing one thought with another one that we think may be more pure. Rather, it is to understand the nature of our thoughts as thoughts and our relationship to them, so that they can be more at our service rather than the other way round. If we decide to think positively, that may be useful, but it is not meditation. It is just more thinking. We can as easily become a prisoner of so-called positive thinking as of negative thinking. It too can be confining, fragmented, inaccurate, illusory, self serving, and wrong. Another element altogether is required to induce transformation in our lives and take us beyond the limits of thought.
– His Holiness Swami Advaitananda