How We Get Lost in Thought
Waking up is about bringing your attention, your focus, and the power of your will to the present moment. I’m not about to lie to you and suggest that this work is easy. Staying awake, focusing on the here and now, living in the moment… hard, hard work.
“Of course I know all about all of this!
Of course I’m awake!
Just look at me!”
“Asleep” is a state of ungroundedness—of going through life on dozy auto‐pilot.
Many are quite smart and talk a good show, but when you look at how they are living their lives, it’s another story altogether.
This article is a guide to awakening. Being endlessly “Lost in Thought” is not helpful, and yet is the prevalent state. Let’s think, instead, of how we might balance things out—creating a unity of body, mind, and spirit.
Often, you’ll find that things come in threes
There is a way of looking at the Chakra chart from this perspective. Some people say that the lower three Chakras are physical, and that the upper four are spiritual. I don’t think that’s exactly right.
Another way of looking at this is that the bottom three are physical, the top three are spiritual, and the middle one, the heart Chakra, is the meeting place and bridge between the other two realms.
Body Blockages Manifest in How One Lives / How One Lives Creates Body Blockages
What I’m saying is that blockages in the body are metaphors for stuckness in the way one is living. As you notice the blockages, a choice‐point occurs. You can either do the work of dissolving the block, or you can continue to stay stuck.
Staying stuck happens as the ego, (which is a mental process, and therefore a story you tell yourself, about “you”) kicks in. Our ego‐mind, our way of thinking—culturally conditioned as it is—rushes in, trying to get us to return to the pattern of being stuck, and doing nothing more than complaining.
Emotions come and go,
as I sit with myself.
Dissolving—If we gently notice, if we hold our thoughts lightly and then let them go, then space is created to express and own the emotion, (“I am angry,” or “My anger is arising,”) to release the emotional and physical block, and finally, to sit in silent acceptance in the midst of ourselves.
How We Get Lost in Thought
It’s so easy to get hooked into the patterns of the past. It’s so easy to distract yourself with the external situations you’re endlessly creating.
You plant yourself firmly in the stories in your head, and ask yourself, “Why is this happening to me again?” “How do I resolve this external situation?” And the odd part is that we never notice the endless, identical stream of external situations that we keep generating. All that ever changes is the cast of characters. As one of Stephen King’s characters put it, “SSDD” (Same shit, different day.)
one’s own life and reality.
You can’t ground yourself and come to know the essence of your being by endlessly diddling around with externals. Gandhi had it right. If you want a different world, you have to
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
It often seems that being grounded is only about the body
3… 2… 1… LIFTOFF!
Being grounded is the antidote to “lifting off”—the activity of people who live with their heads in the clouds, and who never seem quite connected to reality. In other words, most of the population.
Many of the techniques to learn grounding are physical.
- In Bodywork, we apply pressure to the sciatic nerve dimple on the butt, work down the legs, and massage the First Chakra.
- The goal, from a Chinese perspective, is to reconnect the person to earth energy, which the Chinese believe enters the body through a specific point on the sole of the foot.
- Martial artists and Qi Gong Masters use a posture called horse stance to develop stability, steadiness, breath control and strength.
- In meditation, “just sitting” physically connects the Root Chakra to the ground.
But groundedness is much more than that
Groundedness is all about finding a stability that is lived, rather than simply imagined.
We tend to spend a lot of time thinking about, and questioning, our stability, and very little time being stable and grounded..
- We wonder if we’re worthwhile, belong here, and have a right to “be.”
- We focus on filling our lives with stuff, cluttering, in order to distract ourselves from a baseline feeling of instability and unworthiness.
- We feel empty, bereft, and abandoned.
And then, another aspect of our mind kicks in, and criticizes us for thinking ourselves unworthy or unstable, for feeling empty. This critical mental chatter tells us to get over it, and then devises a ball plan to accumulate more stuff, to attract more people, or to pretend we’re happy.
The reason we like Bodywork, Meditation, Chakra work, and all the other physical techniques we teach, is that their focus is not on thinking. Notice that I didn’t say, “Their focus is on the body.” Although all of them have in common a physical technique, the real goal is to, in a sense, still the mind enough to exit the head.
We’re not denigrating the head
We’re simply saying most people are lost up there, tripping around in the dark, endlessly repeating patterns that never have, and never will, work.
self judgment and judging others.
The “cure” is acceptance
The paradox is that it does no good to battle our minds. As a matter of fact, our ego loves it when we try. I’m sure you’ve noticed this, but when you fight against your mind, you’re fighting in your mind.
Einstein famously said,
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
“Hmm. I thought I was BLUE!”
In other words, the part of our mind that is endlessly engaged in judgment is simply a set of filters. Imagine looking at the world through a red filter. No matter how hard you try, all you can see is red. You can’t change what you see if you’re unaware of the filter. Whining, “But… see! Everything is red!” is just as silly as saying “All men are the same,” or any of your other pet beliefs.
To follow Einstein, you have exit the part of your mind that made the problem (the filter.) To do that, you have to take a step back and see the filter. Once you see it, you can choose to look another way.
Having a judgment about being judgmental solves nothing. As you accept the judgmental part of you as being a part of you, simply that, you can let it be and choose, (again and again!) to disengage from it.
Enter the body, enter the breath—finding a heartfelt sense of yourself
This shifting of focus is a tool and an alternative to being lost in thought. As the mental chatter goes background there is a sensation of more space—or perhaps better put, of spaciousness. There is an opening, and an expansion—and you find yourself connected and interconnected, in new ways, with others and with the universe.
In other words, it’s as if you’ve grown roots and are, finally, firmly planted in a version of reality that is ripe with potential
This, of course, flies in the face of the norm, which is, you guessed it, to be lost in thought. From now until you die, your work (and it is work) is to bring your attention out of the chatter and into the spaciousness.
Spacious, present awareness is one of the chief aims of meditation
You notice how your thoughts arise, how your thoughts pass. You notice your breath, going in and out. You notice aches and pains, arising and disappearing. You notice all of this moment by moment, in the now. The meditative state is not a blank state. It is an aware state.
When asked who he was, the Buddha said, “I am awake.”
This is something of a dilemma because we’re not used to being present, and we fear being “out of our minds”
Yikes. “Who and what will I be if I’m not thinking?”
The answer to the question “Who am I?” is, “I am this.” And the this that I am is the me that exists moment to moment. No matter how dearly you attach to the story you tell yourself— to your imaginary history—in actuality
reading this in this moment.
I’ve worked with many clients who have attempted quick fixes. They do a little bit, try a little bit, play around a little bit—and things do indeed get a little bit better. For a while. Then, a test comes, and it’s back to whining, judging, complaining.
Those who seek grounding, on the other hand, make a lifelong commitment to self-stability
It’s refusing to settle for a quick fix.
You can approach meditation as a thing to add in to an already hectic life, or you can make your entire life a meditation
I’d like you to consider not plastering over the problems in your life, but rather to own them as self‐created, to love yourself anyway, and to use the techniques and understandings presented here and elsewhere to profoundly shift how you see yourself.
Give up looking for rescue, for quick fixes, or for magic. Hasn’t worked, never will.
Instead, devote yourself to living from the totality of yourself, which, oddly, is no self at all.
As I always suggest, find a meditation teacher, a therapist, and a Bodyworker.
Dedicate the rest of your life to walking in a new way—a grounded way—a self responsible way. Let go of your grasp on your odd and dysfunctional stories, let go of your passion for getting lost in thought, and choose to be present.
Pick your friends wisely, engage with them fully, and be yourself—completely. And begin today. Now. Endlessly now.