A common method in meditation is to focus on breathing, try to notice fleeting thoughts that show up, and let them go. My usual visualisation method is to imagine being in a wide field, watching my thoughts show up as clouds in the sky, and letting them drift away from where I sit. My initial assumption was that the more I meditate, the emptier my mind becomes, the less fleeting thoughts would appear, and eventually that makes me a calmer person.

But maybe that’s not right. Maybe the most important task during meditation is the noticing. Once I notice a thought, it’s already a win. It means I’m building the skill and mental muscles that are needed to notice thoughts. So in a counter-intuitive way, more fleeting thoughts are better, as it gives more opportunity to improve the noticing skill.

A lot of problems in my mind seem to come from instant reactions to an external stimulation. It’s the “lizard brain” at work. It’s flight-or-flight, it’s fast, and often it’s not the most appropriate reaction to something. A better way is to notice and intercept those reactions as they come, and take the time to assess the situation and formulate better reactions. And that’s where the noticing skill comes in. It’s the prerequisite. The starting point for any change. As the skill gets stronger, hopefully the intercepting becomes easier and easier.

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