My own insight happened while I was meditating last week: It was the insight that you’re not trying to get rid of your thoughts, or stop thinking, but rather stop the attachment to the thought. Don’t let it move you emotionally. That way the thought can come and go without you emotionally reacting to it. Think of the mythology of the Buddha: His victory came not from directly getting rid of thoughts, but by not being moved by them. Remember the story? First he was tempted by desire in the form of Lord Kama’s (a metaphor for Ego, Super-Ego, or even thought itself) beautiful, naked daughters (I believe there were three, which is an important mythological number) and he didn’t allow himself to be moved. So then, Lord Kama tried to use fear: He sent armies and weapons hurling at him. Again, the Buddha wasn’t moved, so the arrows dissolved into flowers.
Ah, but I almost forgot, there were three temptations, right? What was the third? It was the temptation of “Dharma” or in our lingo, what you should be doing out in the world. You might call it a “Political” temptation or a “Career” temptation. In the Buddha’s case, he was a King’s son. So, the temptation was political. The Lord Kama said, in effect, “What are you doing just sitting here? Can’t you see the world’s going to hell in a hand basket? You’re a prince. You should be leading your people!”
And still the Buddha did not allow himself to be moved. And that’s the moment he attained complete victory.
I just bought a book on Kindle called “Why Meditate?” and while I’ve just read the first 10 or so pages, he already confirmed my first insight: That you’re not trying to stop or get rid of your thoughts. At least not directly. Anymore than the Buddha tried to directly get rid of The Lord Kama. Instead, he wasn’t moved emotionally by the temptations of desire, fear, or duty. And that’s a good metaphor for what you’re trying to do in meditation: as the thoughts arise, you don’t try to fight them, but instead, lose your emotional attachment to them. Practice not letting them emotionally move you. So in that sense you really need thoughts during meditation, just like a marksman needs a target. You need them, so that you can practice not letting them control you psychologically or emotionally.
Here’s another good example. If you go to the 2:48 mark of this video, you’ll hear Deepak address this very issue:
“See, trying to silence a thought, is a thought. Ok? So, don’t try to silence the thought. But, you see, if you leave them alone, they start to say to themselves, ‘Nobody’s noticing me.’ Ok, so you don’t try to get out of the thought, because that is a thought by itself…The awareness of a thought is not a thought. It cannot be, right? So, just be aware of it. That’s all. Don’t try to [silence it].” – Deepak Chopra
I might rephrase it like this: “Trying to silence a thought, is an emotion. If you leave them alone, emotionally, they’ll leave the ‘party’ on their own volition. So, don’t try to get out of the thought, because, that, in itself, is an emotion. Instead, try to lose your emotional attachment to the thought.”
Play and practice with this idea. As the thoughts arise, practice not being emotionally moved by them.