Are you addicted to thinking ?
If you are in any doubt that thinking can be an addiction then consider the following definition:
Addiction: the condition of being compulsively occupied with or involved in something.
Addiction to thinking could be said to be the mother of all addictions, both literally and figuratively - literally in that it is by far the most common addiction, affecting practically the entire population to some extent or other - and figuratively because it is arguably the root cause of all other addictions.
Our addiction to food, alcohol, work, gadgets or the internet stems directly from our attempts to escape from, numb ourselves to or shut out the relentless chatter that goes on inside our heads.
Imagine you want to mow the lawn. You get the mower out of the shed and complete the job. What do you do with the lawnmower after you are finished? You put it back in the shed, right?
Imagine if you were to go round in circles day in, day out, mowing the same patch of grass over and over. How tedious and exhausting – not to mention pointless – would that be?
And yet, this provides a good analogy to illustrate how most of our minds work.
We spend our days lost in unconscious and unproductive thinking – addictively replaying the same mental patterns, the same old stories, over and over in our heads like worn-out gramophone records.
Rather than being a helpful tool to be picked up and used when required, the mind is more like an out of control Frankenstein monster with a life of its own. And we don’t know how to stop it. We don’t know how to pull the plug and put it back in the shed.
The Buddhists use the term monkey mind to describe this type of incessant mental chatter that can make lasting peace so difficult to achieve.
Addictive thinking is the primary cause of suffering.
If you are feeling unhappy or troubled, one thing is certain ...you are thinking about something. Thinking and suffering are inseparable.
So how to stop thinking so much? How to knock addictive thinking on the head for good?
How to curb addictive thinking?
The first and most important step is to make unconscious thinking conscious - in other words, to take a step back and watch the mind in action.
When we are lost in thinking, we are unaware that thinking is happening. Through stepping back and observing the mind (as if you are watching a movie on the screen), you will see that there are two things going on. There are the thoughts and there is an awareness of the thoughts – a silent presence that is simply aware.
Good and bad thoughts come and go, pleasant and unpleasant feelings come and go and all of this is seen by an unchanging awareness that is always present. The presence that is aware of thoughts was there when you were a child and will be there on your death bed. This presence is always at peace.
Each time we are conscious enough to step back and become the watcher of the mind rather than being caught up in the content of the mind, thinking automatically stops. You don't have to try to stop thinking. It just happens naturally. The act of becoming aware of the mind stops thinking in its tracks.
Being mindful is being present. Addictive thinking pulls our attention into the past or future.
Our awareness can only be in one place at a time. You can either be thinking or you can be aware of now. Try it for yourself. Are you able to be aware of your surrounding and be thinking at the same time?