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  • Writer's pictureHannah Marsh

Befriending the Mind

Do you feel you can't meditate because your mind is too busy?

When your mind wanders in a meditation practice, do you scold or self-correct, rushing back to the intended focus?

In creative practice or daily life, do you wish your thoughts would leave you in peace?

It's not easy having a mind - especially a busy, thinking human mind! Even those of us with a longstanding mindfulness practice may have a subtle bias against the mind's uninvited activities. Thoughts, we may feel, interrupt the peace of our meditations. Wouldn't meditation be easier without them?

And yet this activity of the mind can be incredibly helpful. Thoughts can offer important reminders, such as a reminder to be present. They can help us formulate plans. They can surprise us with creative visions. Thoughts are a vital part of our experience.

There may be an idea that thoughts are the enemy of mindfulness, yet thoughts are simply thoughts - natural sensations of the mind. This thought bubbling up, right now, is part of your present-time experience. The key distinction with mindfulness is to recognize thoughts as thoughts - seeing them clearly as mental phenomena - rather than getting swept away in the virtual reality of thinking and reacting to thoughts. But, of course, getting swept away is a natural experience, too. And when we recognize this experience, we can pause and notice.

In Mark Williams' Deeper Mindfulness book and 8-week program, he invites us to pause and bring kindness to the mind. Even when it's busy or tired or caught in a distressing loop of thoughts, it can be helpful to recognize that it's doing the best it can. The mind is continually working for us - to process our experience, to remind us of unfinished things, to anticipate the future, to protect us from potential harm. While its efforts can be misguided or counterproductive, rather than turning against the mind, we might thank the mind for its work, letting it know that its voice has been heard: it can rest, now. We can then choose how to proceed - perhaps opening the floor to hear from another voice at the inner conference table.

In our next Mindfulness & Creativity session, we'll practice with a simple anchor for attention, inviting a pause of curiosity and kindness to the mind when attention wanders. We'll work gently, noticing when kindness is difficult, and seeing if we can invite warmth and patience with ourselves. We'll get curious about how the practice of befriending the mind could support us in our daily lives and creative practice. How might an intention for kindness change how we approach challenges, like the inner critic? How might it affect how we relate to our gifts, like spontaneous creative thought?

I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!



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