Excerpt from the book ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle (chapter 1).
What exactly do you mean by “watching the thinker”?
You have probably come across “mad” people in the street incessantly talking or muttering to themselves. Well, that is not much different from what you and all other “normal” people do, except that you don’t do it out loud. The voice comments, speculates, judges, compares complains, likes, dislikes, and so on.
Even if the voice is relevant to the situation at hand, it will interpret it in terms of the past. This is because the voice belongs to your conditioned mind, which is the result of all your past history as well as of the collective cultural mind –set you inherited. So you see and judge the present through the eyes of the past and get a totally distorted view of it. It is not uncommon for the voice to be a person’s own worst enemy. You can free yourself from your mind.
Start listing to the voice in your head as often as you can. Pay particular attention to any repetitive thought patterns, those old gramophone records that have been playing in your head perhaps for many years. This is what I mean by “watching the thinker” which is another way of saying: listen to the voice in your head, be three as the witnessing presence.
When you listen to that voice, listen to it impartially. That is to say, do not judge Do not judge or condemn what you here, for doing so would mean that the same voice has come in again through the back door .You ‘ll soon realize: there is the voice, and here I am listening to it, watching it. This I am listening to it, watching it. This I am realization, this sense of your own presence, is not a thought .It arises from beyond the mind.
When a thought subsides, you experience a discontinuity in the mental stream –a gap of “no- mind.” At first, the gaps will be short, a few seconds perhaps, but gradually they will become longer. When these gaps occur you feel a certain stillness and peace inside you. This is the beginning of your natural state of felt oneness with being, which is usually obscured by the mind. With practice, the sense of stillness and peace will deepen. In fact, there is no end to its depth. You will also feel a subtle emanation of joy arising from deep within: the joy of being. And yet this is not a selfish but a selfless state. It takes you beyond what you previously thought of as “yourself”.
Instead of “watching the thinker,” you can also create a gap in the mind stream simply by directing the focus of attention in to the Now. Just become instantly conscious of the present moment. This is a deeply satisfying thing to do .In this way you draw consciousness away from mind activity and create a gap of no mind in which you are highly alert and aware but not thinking. This is the essence of mediation.
For example, every time you walk up and down the stairs in your house or place of work, pay close attention to every step, every movement, even your berating. Be totally present. Or when you wash your hands pay attention to all the sense perception associated with the activity. The sound and fell of the water, the movement of your hands, the scent of the soap, and so on. Or when you get into your car, after you close the door pause for a few a few seconds and observe the flow of your breath.
One day may catch yourself smiling at the voice in your head, as you would smile at the antics of a child.
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