Someone wrote to me recently about learning meditation because “I feel that my thoughts are ‘running away’ with themselves, and I would like to explore ways to calm my thoughts and mind.” Suffering is often what brings people to meditation initially and we look for antidotes to the mental anguish we feel. We grasp at anything that will make the pain and discomfort go away.
We try mindfulness meditation and often discover not the peace and calm we seek but something more like the experience of “being locked up with a lunatic in a phone booth” (as a friend of mine describes it). We give in to one of the five hindrances, doubt regarding the teachings and the practice. But many of us persist and finally develop some insight regarding the original problem of runaway thoughts, aka “monkey mind.”
We realize that our original problem is the aversion to conditions as they are and clinging to the notion that things should be different. OK, so the mind is full of jumbled thoughts. Armed with mindfulness, I acknowledge the situation. I see that the problem is not the runaway thoughts, but the clinging and the identification with them as me or mine. As soon as I “own” them, then thoughts become a problem to be solved rather than arising mental formations that I can pick up…..or not.