The Game of Identifying Thought Patterns

As we talked about last week, I decided to dedicate fifteen minutes a day to find out what occupies my mind. My intention was to repeat my mantra, and observe the types of thoughts that arise in the consciousness during that time, recognizing these thought habits also occupy my mind during the day, even though I am not so aware of them. I said last week I would focus only on data collection and leave the analysis for today.

If you tried the practice with me you too would have discovered that it was not so simple to do. It took a lot of discipline not to get caught up in the individual thoughts. It was very helpful to pull back to see what kind of thought pattern was emerging, to describe the group of thoughts. Some of the categories I gave to my thoughts were “idle chatter”, “self-criticism”, “self-doubt”, “worry”.

Once I got the hang of it, I could identify the group a thought belonged to much faster.  It was a great game. How fast and how accurately could I identify the type of thought arising? The side effect was interesting because the number of thoughts seemed to subside for themselves. I began to see the thought taking form and before it could become full-blown I knew the category it belonged to.

Before this approach when thoughts arose during my mantra repetition, an incredible avalanche of self chastisement would follow. This approach took away the self chastising and replaced it with glee as I recognized the type of thought pattern.

Without consciously trying, the habit of identifying thought patterns slipped into my consciousness all during the day. It was fun. I enjoyed this new game.

Here is another surprise, even though I haven’t tried as yet to change any of the thought patterns they seem to be weakening of their own accord. I think it has something to do with the fun. Fun has a sneaky way of displacing negative thoughts :). Before I felt a strong depressing effect caused by negative thoughts but this week I didn’t feel pulled down by them as I used to. In fact I feel very good. I feel ready to tackle these thought patterns and start the dismantling process.

How about you? What’s the past week been like for you? Join the conversation won’t you?



11 Responses to The Game of Identifying Thought Patterns

  1. Henk says:

    Thank you, Madhavi, for all the previous posts. Step by step, up the ladder, to a clear mind, to becoming a master of the mind.

    I can imagine the joy and fun you are having. I can also imagine the power of observing of thoughts and of acting from there as Victoria described.

    I didn’t do the practice as organised as you described, but I thought about the groups that my thoughts comprise of. Thoughts about work, what my wife might think (if one mind isn’t enough…), some idle chatter, self-critism and thoughts about the Source or a mantra.

    How nice if the mind was occupied with the Source or the Guru Gita alone, having the power to choose the thoughts, having practical thoughts only when needed. With practice this seems to me totally feasable, but what am I waiting for? Why is my mind still distracted most of the times? I notice such difference with periods that I am disciplined. My mind is so much more peaceful then. I feel inspired again for more discipline.

    Thanks everyone.

    • Chan Madhavi says:

      Thank you being such a precious part of the conversation Henk,

  2. Victoria says:

    Yes Madhavi, it was not so easy. Popular groupings for me include self doubt, self criticism, spiritual practice planning, thinking about thoughts, a running commentary on what/how I was doing etc. What I did notice (once, but it was still very exciting) early one morning was a negative thought about someone else start to arise, and my response was “No, I do not want this” and it stopped right there. That was quite surprising. But one swallow does not a summer make and there have been many such thoughts since! Still, it shows me what is possible.

    I am seeing different levels of noise and busyness in my mind, some loud, some more subtle. There is also the question “what would a quiet mind be like” and with that, there is desire, curiosity and fear. I catch a glimpse of quiet and then it starts back up again.

    But all very interesting and I look forward to trying to observe more, to see if and how the practice of observing extends beyond the ‘sitting practice.’

    Thanks for this practice, and the reminder that fun beats an ordeal any day!

  3. Marlene says:

    It was interesting just to do this practice to see what I would observe. I had a little difficulty categorizing the type of thoughts even though that was my intention, so the examples you gave today will help me to better categorize my own as I continue. But what I did discover is that my mind actually stayed focused on the mantra for a good part of the 15 minutes without being distracted by a lot of thoughts so that was nice to notice.

    • Chan Madhavi says:

      Wow you have amazing mind power Marlene … focus on one thoughts without too many distractions arising.

  4. Lee Majewski says:

    Nice idea and exercise! I noticed that i have Guru Gita running through my head in the background form the moment I open my eyes…. Talking about conditioning 🙂

    • Chan Madhavi says:

      Aha the mantra stays in the mind all day, that’s marvelous!

  5. kathrynann says:

    While repeating the mantra 10 times before any activity, I noticed my thoughts all belong to one and the same category, which I would describe as:” monkeys jumping all over the place”.
    Nothing interesting, just trivia, to-do lists, etc.
    Also I noticed not wanting to take the time to repeat the mantra 10 times. Not because of being too busy to do it, but because of not wanting to change the habit of “not being able to focus”. This is very revealing because it means “not being able to focus” is not something I have to study to become proficient at ,and which I might fail at through no fault of my own 😉 . It means just going ahead and doing it!

    • Chan Madhavi says:

      I had to laugh aloud as I read your comment Kathrynann. You are already an expert at “not being able to focus”. Now you can develop expertise in other areas :).

      • kathrynann says:

        Thank you Madhavi, that is also very helpful. Because for years now, off and on, I have been repeating the experience of “Oh dear, I still don’t seem to be able to focus” which was an excuse to stop trying as well.
        The message I’m getting now is: keep exercising and just observe the result without ranking it “passed” or “failed”. This goes for other areas in myf life as well; I seem to want an instant reward.
        Thank you Madhavi!!

        • Chan Madhavi says:

          Oh I totally agree Kathrynann, yes, it’s exciting to be such an acute observer of all the thoughts in the mind.

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