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When I sit for meditation, there are a lot of thoughts that come to my mind. How can I be free from thoughts while meditating?

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there is in fact a joke in our circle regarding this.. "If you wanna remember where u left you forgotten keys go pray/meditate" – Shaima May 9 '13 at 7:49
That's why you have to practice it. Just keep concentrating on your breath (or whatever type of meditation you prefer) and ignore the thoughts. You cannot stop them but you can refocus on your breath. There's no shame in doing so because ignoring upcoming thought is part of the experience – Jonas Dralle Jun 7 at 12:08

14 Answers 14

You can't. At best, you can gently refuse to follow each train of thought as it occurs. Watch the boats floating by; just don't climb into any of them.

This becomes easier after a few months.

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Credit where credit is due. I just recalled where that analogy came from. Open Mind, Open Heart, by Fr. Thomas Keating. – Camille Goudeseune May 8 '13 at 15:47

The goal is not to try to be free from thoughts or to resist them. Instead welcome the thought, acknowledge it then say goodbye to it. Dedicating time to try and not think about it will inevitably lead to you thinking about it. So just let it happen and be very passive with it. Thoughts will come and go easily, they only stick around when we focus on them, whether that focus is on the thought or on getting rid of the thought.

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Yeah, the purpose of meditation is 'peeling' off the thoughts on the surface of your mind to get into the deeper, more subliminal ones. – Muz May 8 '13 at 7:37
"Purpose" there is a dangerous word. Meditating as a means to an end quickly leads to frustration and giving up. It's better to consider that a happy side effect. – Camille Goudeseune May 8 '13 at 15:29

Meditation = Concentration

As mentioned in previous answers, the practice of meditation is not meant to prevent thoughts from entering the mind but rather to hone your ability to concentrate on the object of meditation you've set out to practice. For all other sensations and thoughts that enter, it also requires increasing your awareness of the present moment in order to let them "run off" the mind without attachment.

Personally, I find that it helps to imagine I am channeling/transforming all thought sensations and physical sensations that enter my consciousness into the object of meditation itself, thereby enhancing my concentration on said object. For example, in the moment I notice I am having thoughts or feelings of physical pain/discomfort in the body, I try to take those sensations and convert/merge them into whatever the object is - whether it's for Mindfulness of Breathing or one of the Four Sublime Abiding.

However, it is also my understanding that for insight meditation (Vipassana), there is no single object but rather the goal is to stay with your thought and physical sensations and follow them to their root conditions/elements of wind, water, earth, and fire.

Most importantly though, remember to have patience and compassion for yourself while applying the right effort towards your practice. In other words, practice with wholesome intention and without attachment/grasping onto achieving a specific outcome. After all, meditation is as much about lessening our negativity towards ourselves and others as it is about building our capacity for the positive.

Here's to wishing everyone here fruitful meditation practice! That is, without expectation of - nor attachment to - said fruits :)

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I agree with frank. Just notice that there are some thoughts and then continue with your meditation.

You can also try to concentrate on two things at the same time : your breath and how something feels a like (the fabric of your shirt or jeans, the touch of your finger on an other finger ... ). As we can't handle more then two tasks at a time the thoughts will go away.

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it's not about attempting to be free from thought
it's about realizing when the mind starts drifting
most of the time this happens without our realizing that it has started drifting already
the goal is to be able to notice as soon as it starts to drift so that we can can bring the mind back to what we were trying to concentrate on

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A point of meditation is not so much to be free of thoughts in the sense of being devoid of thoughts but rather in the sense of being independent of thoughts, such that thoughts have no power over you anymore. Having no thoughts at all is obviously not sustainable in every day life, but detachment from thoughts certainly is.

Regard thoughts like passing clouds floating lightly through a summer sky. If detachment happens sometimes thoughts disappear at all, but this is only a pleasant side effect.

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I find I continually think of a couple of things at the same time so part of my meditation process is to have planned thoughts. Like @hexodus, I tie something physical to my thoughts -

usually I let one part of my mind count my breaths while another counts my heartbeats. When beginning a meditation this helps persuade stray thoughts to stay only briefly. Once I am relaxed I find I have often forgotten to keep counting, but my mental state is still very relaxed.

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You might want to look at this page.

Sadly, it's in French so I put it in Google translation. It seems still pretty understandable.

Basically, he explain us his tricks.

Breathing is very important but one good advise is to try to visualize a basic shape in our head, make it do a loop, make it spin in 2D then in 3D, this will keep your mind busy trying to visualize it (don't hesitate to check out his article, he put some images to help illustrating).

This is really effective and it prevents you from the free train of thought which is very hard to deal with otherwise.


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In Mindfulness practice we work on our relationship to things. So for example, don't get hung up on having thoughts while practicing, but rather open to them and see how you continually tend to get hooked by them. See how you tend to be very identified with and bound up with the thinking process. Dragged about by it into the past, the future, worry, fantasy, endless commentary. Seeing all of this going on helps you over time to become dis-entangled from thinking . Unfortunantly sitting with an overly busy mind can be part of the practice. You have to be willing to sit with the busy everyday-mind and be committed to continually bringing it back from whatever it wanders on to. Over and over, again and again, you let go of whatever comes to cloud awareness. By doing so the mind will begin to lay things down and become more quiet.

I find it helpful not to associate meditation with ceasing thoughts or with relaxaton even. (See these as side benefits of the practice.) Look on practice as acceptance time, getting to know your mind and its content better. Thoughts will continue to bubble up when you sit to meditate, but by not giving them your attention they eventualy run themselves out and fade away.

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I was seeking answer to same for years together and then saw this link one day, must say very easy method to get into meditation, still not guaranteed that all will get this working as it's more of internal state of spirit and awareness of self which makes it possible for a being, still see if this works for you, if works then it is easiest method to get into meditation...

It is great initiative with these people to help people get into meditative state, and they really do not charge anything for this like many other practices.

People always say that so and so practice changed them many ways, but genuinely speaking i must say it changed me a lot and my life too hence thought of sharing, follow same even during office hours. before trying this had tried many but this seemed really giving meditation, rest most i tried were looking working only in books and theories. hope you get it helping you.

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How can you be free from thoughts?

Just do more meditation.

Do it some month and the time without thoughts will increase.

Thoughts aren't bad. Don't dismiss them.

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Short Zen answer would be:

You can't help that birds will fly over your head, but you can stop them from building nests in your hair.

So this should be your approach, don't cling to your thoughts, but don't actively fight them either. They'll settle eventually, if it doesn't: just keep meditating. It's just what it is: sitting and breathing.

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Disassociate yourself from these wandering thoughts. As a computer game analogy, these interrupting thoughts belong to your character, while you are the player. But your player (you) isn't aware (mostly) that he has a personality / character overlay applied to his actions (aka, conscious vs sub-conscious, id, ego). While trying to mediate, your character keeps injecting thoughts into your mind, trying to control and direct the story.

Your job is to notice these thoughts as they are being injected into your mind. At first, while learning, be amused by them. Try to see if you can identify the thought's origin. Why did I just think that? Disassociate with them. They are not part of the true 'you'. Like others have said, it is almost impossible to turn these thoughts off. Luckily you don't have to. You just have to learn on how to use them to your advantage.

The simplest method I've tried was (as others have said) to let your conscious thought focus on your breathing. Notice how it feels to breath in, then out. How does it sound? Gradually reduce your level of concentration on your breathing, but not entirely. Get to a point where you are barely thinking about your breathing, but are just experiencing it. Eventually you should be able to just tune out everything but your breathing for 10 seconds, then 30, then a full minute. Even still, you'll occasionally notice a wandering thought drift by (usually 'hey, I didn't have a thought for a while now!'), but now your true mind already has something to occupy it, so these stray thoughts are easier to ignore.

Another method to occupy your thoughts is a guided meditation (is that what they are called?) where you follow a predetermined script (either memorized, or from an audio source). For example, imagine walking down a long, winding path through a forest. Notice the birds chirping, the gentle summer breeze flowing through the branches, etc. A proper script will slowly calm your mind (while giving it something to concentrate on), and bring your brain waves into the proper frequency. Google should provide you with some great sources for these meditations.

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I do not try to control the thoughts that come when meditating. I begin by focusing on my breathing, but inevitably my mind will wander to something else. When this happens I acknowledge the thought and then purposefully pull my mind back to my breath.

I have found that the more I meditate the shorter my "distracted" moments become. I find that the thoughts I have the hardest time holding at bay lead me to realizations about my overall feeling and focus for the day and so I do not dismiss them but see them as a valuable part of the overall mindful experience.

If I just cannot get a thought out of my head then I will take a few minutes and freely think about only that before returning to the meditation.

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