Most people think too much—it is human nature. The mind is a thought generator; it is constantly creating an endless stream of thoughts. It’s easy to become caught up in your thoughts, ruminating about the little things of life, attempting to avoid the bigger issues, and perhaps feeling powerless and doubting your ability to deal with things.
Over the past decades, various neurological studies have shown that the average person has over thirty thousand thoughts a day. Of those thoughts, approximately ninety percent are said to be repetitive and eighty percent are classified as negative.
By “negative”, neuroscientists mean these thoughts offer nothing beneficial, such as support for your ideas, desires, wellbeing, and achievements. Most of these thoughts are your mind worrying, ruminating, or planning to avoid problems. Essentially, this means that most of our thoughts are a constant negating force in our body-mind; they rob you of energy and mental peace.
Your initial reaction to this knowledge may be to look for an inner switch that can turn off the negative thoughts and keep your more positive thoughts. You might imagine that this switch is your intention and that you can think yourself into better thoughts. Try to control your thoughts for ten seconds and you will see just how difficult this is. In fact, it is impossible. The mind has to think just as the heart has to beat. That is its function. You cannot and should not turn it off.
You cannot manage your thoughts by thinking about how to manage them. There is a better way and yogis and wisdom traditions have known how to do this for thousands of years. They developed techniques that connect the thinking mind to the knowing mind. When the thinking mind is disconnected from the knowing mind, then the thinking mind is your master. When you connect your thinking mind to your knowing mind, you become the master of your mind.
When thoughts rule you, the lower thinking-mind runs riot
The ninety percent of repetitive thoughts neuroscientists describe are generated by what yogis call the lower, thinking mind. The lower-thinking mind is the basis of your normal waking state of consciousness, your daily mind that interacts with the world. It produces thousands of endless, repetitive, and of often negative thoughts.
Over time, the thinking mind forges grooves in the body-mind, embedded patterns which build have the imperceptible power to:
- Drain you energetically and emotionally.
- Increase your stress and anxiety levels.
- Undermine your decision-making and confidence.
- Confuse your thoughts with external reality.
- Thwart your ability to adapt and be creative.
While there is no inner switch that can turn off the thinking mind, there is a part of you that is deeper and more powerful and that has the opposite attributes. That part is positive, protecting, nurturing, and supporting. That part helps you to use your thinking mind creatively. It is the higher, intuitive mind, and the way you gain access to it is through meditation. It is possible to learn how to manage the mind, to use the mind’s potential purposefully and creatively so that random and chaotic thoughts do not swamp you.
When you rule your thoughts, you are connected to the higher intuitive mind
The higher intuitive mind is also called the “higher self”, the “wisdom body”, or the “knowing self”.
It is the wise part of you that knows what is really good for you. It knows how to be in the world and how to respond to life with authenticity, spontaneity, courage, skill, and wisdom. The higher intuitive mind handles the formation of your sense of self and your ability to gain an accurate perspective. It is aligned with your inner data bank of deep knowledge.
It is wise to connect to and cultivate the higher mind so that the endless stream of thoughts, the thinking mind, does not control you.
The aim of meditation is not to escape the thinking mind, since you need it for your survival. The aim is to connect your two minds so that the thinking mind can hear, respond to, and learn from the wisdom of your intuitive mind. Only then can you disentangle from and live in harmony with your over thirty thousand daily thoughts. (Actually, there are probably many more thoughts than these if we include everything that is going on in the subconscious mind.)
One of the very best meditation practices to put excessive thoughts to rest is Inner Silence. Also called Mindfulness or Antar Mouna, it is a foundation practice in the yoga-tantra tradition, and it is for anyone who thinks too much.