A Guided Thought Watching Practice

Observing Our Thoughts, Like Logs in a River

Let’s begin by anchoring our body in the present moment and take 3 slow-deep breaths in and out.  Bring awareness to your full sensory experience (all the sounds you can hear – both near and far, the nearby scents, and the physical sensation of where your body comes in contact with the cushion or chair), simply observing the experience, rather than judging it good or bad.   

When we take a little time to sit in meditation, resting with the rhythm of our breath as it flows in and out, we begin to notice a stream of thoughts that flow…sometimes in groups, while others have more space between them.  Our thoughts can feel dense and heavy or light and fleeting.  As we rest our focus on the sensation of our breath (feeling the cool breath enter our nose and the warm breath exit or as we experience the rhythm of the gentle rise and fall of our chest), we may be distracted by not only our external environment (sounds, scents, touch sensations), but also by our very own thoughts.   We can learn to manage these thoughts by visualizing them as logs floating down a river.  

As you sit on the river bank (maintaining your focus on the sensation of breathing), you can also observe the thoughts that pop into your mind.  Notice if you can witness the thought as it approaches, see it in front of you, and watch it pass by (the thought can be written on the log – you could label the log “worry thought”, “planning thought”, “past/future thought”, etc.), as you return to focusing on feeling your breath move through your body.   Now, some thoughts pass smoothly, while others tend to draw you in (emotionally) and you find yourself wrapping your arms around and holding onto the log…getting carried away down the river.  That’s okay, it happens to us all now and then, the key is to notice that you’re holding onto this thought (really hugging it)…in this present moment (where you’re just sitting and resting with your breath) you can let it go…let it pass,  because it isn’t serving you…in this moment you can’t change it, fix it, or fight it…right now you can acknowledge it and watch the log (carrying your thought) float down the river as you return to the river bank and refocus your attention on the natural flow of your breath.   

This mindful meditation practice, repeating the above steps over and over when you find yourself gripping a thought that isn’t serving you in the moment, can help you to stay balanced (anchored), rather than getting hijacked by thoughts (carried so far away) throughout your day.  You can always revisit a situation that you would like to resolve, at another time; but, the key is to not let it replay 24/7.  Allow your thought logs to float down the river, so you can return to focusing on your breath….or carrying on with your present moment activity (work, errands, conversation, etc.).