I’d like to share an interesting experiment I tried out in my meditation practice today. It was a bit like an elaboration of the labelling thoughts practice – you know – where you notice what kind of a thought you’re having, like worrying, or planning or remembering. I was practising what is termed “formless meditation”, very much like choiceless awareness, where you are simply being aware of everything that arises in your experience, with eyes open rather than closed. At a certain point in the practice I spontaneously began a sort of inner commentary on everything that was arising in my experience, or as much of it as I could encompass, which actually helped me to become aware of it, like I was drawing it out from the shadows.
So with my eyes softly focused I first noticed and mentally commented on seeing the meditation timer in my field of vision on one side and the glass of water on the other, then the sound of some heavy machinery which reminded me of the sound of ski lifts and all the pleasant associations with being in the mountains, then of an ache in my right shoulder and of hunger in my belly and of all the thoughts I was having like how much I had to do later on and how much I would enjoy eating my breakfast. It sort of went like this “now I’m noticing the green and the shape of the money plant and now there’s the sound of an airplane. Now I’m feeling the weight of my hands on my legs, sort of warm, heavy and fizzy, and now some slight tension in my forehead and a stingy feeling round my eyes. And I’m thinking about this commentary and that’s making me want to laugh because it’s sort of funny.” What it also showed me was how rapidly one “object” of awareness would be succeeded by another and of course so much going on at the same time it was hard to keep up with it all, so I had to let go of even attempting that, but there was a lovely sense of the fullness and richness of it all going on.
This wouldn’t be something to do all the time, but trying it today it was quite remarkable how it vivified my experience and made it more fully present. So I thought I’d pass it on. It could help when you’re feeling very restless or distractible. You could also try this kind of inner running commentary when you’re feeling stressed or anxious going about your daily life, to bring you back into your body and the present moment, so something like “now I’m getting out of the chair and standing up… now I’m moving towards the fridge and opening the door…now I’m turning the tap and filling the kettle”. It may feel a little strange at first, but might just help you to climb down out of ruminating or racing thoughts.