Zen of the Quit

Sitting, Zen

Cataloguing Thoughts


In an earlier post about sitting, I tell you that when thoughts arise, you should notice them, catalog them, and then let them go. What do I mean by “cataloguing” thoughts?

It’s simple, really: let’s say you’re sitting, and a thought arises about an argument you had with your sister, and you think, “she shouldn’t have said that.” OK, you’ve noticed that you had this thought.

Now, instead of following that thought with a whole internal monolog about how wrong she was, and why she shouldn’t have said that, and what you’re going to say or do the next time you see her, and so on, just say to yourself, “having a thought that she shouldn’t have said that,” and then bring your awareness back to the present moment.

Notice that there’s no judgment here about you or her; you’re just noticing that this thought arose. It doesn’t matter why the thought arose, just notice that it did, and come back to the present moment.

Some thoughts will arise over and over again. As smokers (or ex-smokers, or soon-to-be ex-smokers), we might expect thoughts around smoking to arise fairly regularly. And we treat these the same way: we notice them, say, “having a thought about smoking,” and bring our attention back to the present moment.

The point of sitting is to practice experiencing the present moment. When we’re thinking about what someone said, or something we want to do, or anything at all that isn’t happening in that moment, we’re missing that moment.

The more you sit, notice the thoughts that arise, catalog them, and bring your attention back to the present moment, the less thoughts will arise while you’re sitting. (Let’s face it, by the 10,000th time you say, “having a though about ‘x’,” you’re going to be really tired of thinking about ‘x’ – whatever ‘x’ is.)

More on this as we g along.

(If you're feeling a bit lost, it may be helpful to go back to the first post and follow along in order.)

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