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thought stopping
Answer
3/10/11 2:28 AM
Any opinions on thought stopping as a meditation technique?

Thought stopping: watching every thought that arises and squashing it the moment you notice it. Like a cat watching a mouse hole.

RE: thought stopping
Answer
3/10/11 9:08 AM as a reply to This Good Self.
C C C:
Any opinions on thought stopping as a meditation technique?

Thought stopping: watching every thought that arises and squashing it the moment you notice it. Like a cat watching a mouse hole.


I think it should be taken as a last resort. Check out MN 20. It lays out a set of steps to follow (very basic summary, read the sutta for the full descriptions):

1. First, try to think skillful thoughts instead of unskillful ones.
2. If the unskillful ones persist, then try finding drawbacks of the unskillful ones.
3. If that doesn't work, try to pay no mind to them.
4. If that doesn't work, try relaxing the thoughts.
5. If that doesn't work, then crush the thoughts (like you mentioned here).

So if thoughts persist & annoy, try the other methods, but if nothing works, then try to crush it. It generally seems like a very heavy-handed and stressful technique, so if it can be done more easily it should be.

RE: thought stopping
Answer
3/11/11 1:57 AM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Yes it feels gross and heavy handed when I'm doing it. I can make it work to some degree though, I think.

Thank you, oh monk!

RE: thought stopping
Answer
3/11/11 12:02 PM as a reply to This Good Self.
Hi there,

This method never worked for me personally (I have had a lot of problems with fairly difficult intrusive thoughts, and not just while practicing! ) so I did some digging from a Western psych perspective and came up with the interesting work of Daniel Wegner: "White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts: Suppression, Obsession, and the Psychology of Mental Control"

The jist of it is that thought suppression is tricky and can have a paradoxical effect of increasing the problem, sometimes to the level of a full-blown obsession. This is thought to be one of the reason that dieting is often dramatically unsuccessful. Perhaps this is why it's the last resort... Personally, I've had more luck since I gave up on thought suppression and just used the thoughts as an object of insight, which I suppose is related to Step 1, think 'skillful thoughts'

Hope this helps,

Paul

RE: thought stopping
Answer
3/11/11 4:27 PM as a reply to This Good Self.
What benefit do you think stopping thought will bring?

The way I see it, the only thing that makes thoughts into problems to be solved is a kind of learned relational responding. It goes like this...

1.) When certain thoughts are present, I'm not OK.

[which leads to the following derived relation...]

2.) When I'm not OK, certain thoughts are present.

We somehow think that if they arise together, one must be causing the other. So either the thoughts are causing me to feel not OK, or my feeling not OK is causing the thoughts.

The problem here is that when two variables covary, it may be that an underlying, and yet undiscovered process could be responsible for the occurence of both.

Some people are just fine with the fact that thoughts come and go. Others seem troubled by this. What's the difference?

Personally, I think that it is one's maladaptive relationship with their thoughts that makes a problem arise. It doesn't take much practice for most of us to realize that thoughts aren't a big deal. We just have to be open to the fact that we've probably had an unhealthy relationship to thoughts and thinking for most of our lives.

Jackson

RE: thought stopping
Answer
3/11/11 4:29 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
I agree. thoughts in and of themselves are not the problem.. they're kind of the unwitting messengers that indicate to you there is a problem. e.g. if i have a thought that god the project i have to work on is so ANNOYING!! the issue is that 'you' think the project is annoying, and that causes those thoughts to arise when you're reminded of the issue. you can crush the thoughts if they are really, truly debilitating and you cannot do anything while they are there, but it is much more beneficial to acknowledge the thought, see what is the underlying problem, and attempt to deal with that, then to simply silence the thought and continue (since then the thought will probably keep re-arising and could lead to an annoying feedback loop like has been mentioned already). that's why crushing thoughts is the 5th, last resort - only do it if nothing else works.

of course all this depends on what you're trying to do, exactly... are you trying to do concentration meditation? insight meditation? induce a PCE? simply chill out? you'll need to do different things with the thoughts depending on what the goal is, so i really should have asked that first - why do you ask about stopping thoughts?

RE: thought stopping
Answer
3/12/11 4:07 AM as a reply to Paul Anthony.
Thanks Paul I am aware of that line of thinking. The style of thought I'd like to kill in its tracks is repetitive music. Not negative or unskillful, just annoying.

I can only explain it this way: my mind seems to work simultaneously on different levels. At the deeper level is this music, and it will persist even if I try to think skillful thoughts on a conscious level. Thought stopping is very hard work - I hate doing it - but it gets to those deeper levels and stops them.

I agree Jackson, if what you're saying is that it's possible to be too closely identified with one's thoughts, hence too affected by them.

Golem (nice one), I'm trying to silence the music because I know there's some massive monster of a fear underneath it that needs unearthing. I want to see it face to face.

RE: thought stopping
Answer
3/12/11 9:15 AM as a reply to This Good Self.
C C C:
The style of thought I'd like to kill in its tracks is repetitive music. Not negative or unskillful, just annoying. ... I'm trying to silence the music because I know there's some massive monster of a fear underneath it that needs unearthing. I want to see it face to face.

oh, interesting. i had problems w/ repeating music in my head, too. it would constantly happen while i meditated and while walking around.. would be especially annoying while meditating, though. still happens now sometimes. tho it was annoying it has diminished over the past few months and now it doesn't bother me anymore.

why do you think there's a massive monster of fear underneath it? i never got that impression with mine... i thought it was just repetitive thought that was wasting its own energy but to no other purpose.

you might try the opposite approach. instead of splitting yourself in two (the part repeating the song and the part being annoyed at it) and having one squash the other, realize that the song repeating in your head is perpetuated by you (it's all you in there) and try accepting it, stopping to be adverse to it, and then following it (with the intensity and constant on-going focus of a meditation session). how does it start? how does it continue? notice that you expend effort to keep it up - it's harder to keep it going than to stop it, but that's currently your default. maybe try to pay attention to how your mind fabricates the next notes. try to find the difference between what you are hearing in your head and actual sounds (the latter will be much richer), etc.