“Thoughts are like traces of birds in heaven.”
- East Side of the Berlin Wall
Have you ever tried to watch yourself think? Not like in a mirror or on a videotape, but as if you weren’t attached to any of the thoughts and didn’t get caught up in them, follow them, or judge them. Have you ever tried to mind your mind?
Watching thoughts can be like looking for traces of birds. Any birdwatcher knows that the first few minutes of observation are fairly mundane because the birds have scattered and are hiding. Only by becoming quiet and non-obtrusive may the birder’s attention be rewarded with glorious feathered creatures in droves. What the meditator has over the birder is that the meditator never suffers for dearth. Thoughts are a dime a dozen.
The trick to becoming non-obtrusive as a “birder of the mind” is to not get stuck in the thoughts. Thoughts can be like fly paper and veritably drag the mind behind them. For instance, you’re sitting quietly and still, meditating, concentrating on a single point. And you’re doing it so well! Oh my, you’ve never done it for so long before – this daily practice thing is really paying off. Why, if you’d told me a week ago that only 15 minutes a day could bring me anything worth having – even a smile – I wouldn’t have believed you. Speaking of smiles, that grocery lady has a nice one. Except that she could use a bit of teeth whitening. Oh gosh, did you forget your appointment with the dentist? Darn, second time! They’ll never let you reschedule again! ...See how easy it is, this mind wandering thing? It’s what we do most of the time. It can even begin with what seems like success!
Here is where concentration becomes so vitally important, because the only thing that matters is that when you realize you’re making lists and creating worries you stop and go back to watching the thoughts. Just like birds, they’ll scatter for a moment in the blazing light of that awareness moment. But unlike birds, they don’t learn, don’t remember...and they’ll be back.