Our mind has the wonderful and much-needed capacity to reflect, evaluate, compare and plan. Yet, when left unguarded this capacity of the mind can also cause us much stress and anxiety. When planning is tinged with fear, it turns into worry. When remembering coloured with blame it turns into anger or guilt. The mind can spin endlessly into fantasies or stories about self and others. And even when they are pleasant, they still exhaust the being due to a constant engagement in thought.
Mindfulness meditation helps us to cut through thinking and use the thinking mind as a tool, which we can purposefully use when helpful.
How do we do that?
The first step is to cut through thinking. Some thoughts have the consistency of superglue. They urge us to think them with some persistence. It takes a firm decision not to take this path another time and then to fill the mind with something more helpful and nourishing.
One option, which is particularly helpful when concerned with self-referential thinking and worries, is to connect with the sense doors. „In the seeing, just the seen“, is the Buddha’s practise suggestion.
Look around, drink in the colours, the forms, light and dark, movement and stillness. When the mind is particularly active, name what you see: tree, bird, street, people, advertisement, etc. Do not go into the story about any of these objects, just follow your gaze to the next obvious thing which attracts your attention.
You can do the same with the other sense doors: hearing, tasting, touching, smelling. Or broaden awareness to take in the interplay of your senses, asking „What is most obvious, right now?“
Take care that you do not „think about“ a sense impression, but directly turn towards the immediate experience. Observe what happens to the thinking mind, if you follow this practice for five to ten minutes or longer.