Practicing on and off for a few years. Trying to understand what you guys experience.

To start, I will give you some things to do so you have a reference-point for my words. Otherwise we may think we're speaking the same language when we're not.

Here is a simple way to notice 'thoughts' as some meditation teachers conceptualize them. Please keep reading this attentively, but while you're reading this, know that what you're about to do is simply make thougts arise and pass away the way you already have done in the past — you just may not have considered some them to be thoughts.

Now, please look for a few seconds at this image of a candle. Just a few seconds, no need to dwell or take this too seriously.

Now look at the center of your computer screen briefly. Then move your eyes to the upper-left-hand corner of the screen. Now imagine in this corner that this candle you just saw is in sitting there for five to ten seconds if you can.

Your experience may not have been super vivid just now, but you can probably grasp what I was asking you to do with your mind: to imagine that the image-link was opened in the upper-left-hand corner instead of wherever on the screen you actually opened it.

This new 'candle' that you were putting in the left hand corner of your screen is one form of 'thought;' it's a thing you had perceived in the past which your mind is right now re-combining in the present thought it doesn't 'exist' tangible. This kind of 'thought' is similar to moments when you feel like your 'mom is here with you' when you see something she bought you for your birthday. The image of the mom you perceived in the past 'returns' in the proverbial 'upper-left-hand-corner' of your mental screen.

Now, again in the upper-left-hand corner of your screen, slowly switch the candle with a coffee cup. Whatever feels right, the cup's color et cetera is ok to just choose at random. Now let the cup fade away.

That's one exercise. I can show you more, but that was just to set a basic experiential context.

That invisible candle that you 'saw' was one form of 'thought' (the type based on a real image seen prior), and it was fading away into an cognition of a coffee-cup in your mind (one based on perhaps nothing but fantasy and no image seen prior).

Now, during this whole process, you 'saw' the invisible candle come into your mental view, you 'saw' it fade, and you 'saw' it turn into the cup, which you also 'saw' fade away once the exercise was done-with.

Also, during this, it's possible that you didn't feel separated or as if you had a different mind or were split in two. You were simply watching and imagining the way you always have when you talk to people or are reading books. So we can be aware of thoughts as appearances without running away from them and without ignoring 'what we don't want to see.'

The key to this exercise, that may not appear at first glance, was this: you were simply watching the whole time. That is all that people are talking about when they use metaphors like 'letting go' or 'treating things like clouds.' Your worry that this watching is actually hiding is valid, because many people do just that with mindfulness; however, as you just experienced in your exercise, watching that continues doesn't 'feel like anything' bad or good or dissociating. It's just watching.

A big clue that one is using mindfulness to push-away is that mindfulness only 'starts' when pain comes up and the habit magically disappears when pleasure returns. A big sign that your mind is failing to 'watch thoughts non-judgmentally' is that a thought occurs to you, an emotion knocks you off-center, and then you 'return' to mindfulness; that pattern is the mind saying, 'This thought sucks, I'm outta here.' It takes time to sustain observation, to experience what your mind may have associated with fear (maybe a bully from your past, et cetera), but once observation continues without punishing the mind for 'producing' the thought of the bully, or running away 'mindfully' from the bully-thought, if observation continues then you are treating the thought 'like a cloud' because you aren't punishing or grabbing. You're just openly permitting with confidence, knowing that all thoughts pass — like the sky that knows (if it were 'alive') that clouds pass and doesn't have to 'judge' clouds to make them pass.

This was a lot of words, but I hope that you got some actual experience out of this that directly speaks 'your language' and gives you more confidence in the benefit of observation, as well as understanding that 'observation' is just a natural part of you rather than a second mind or barrier that creates unnatural experiences.

Have a good day!


/r/Meditation Thread