If you have been practicing any form of meditation, one thing you will have noticed is just how often your mind drifts off into thought. This also happens when you are trying to be “present” in your daily life, for example if you try to do everyday things more consciously.

What you will notice is this:

You can be fully present for a while, but eventually your thoughts will drag you away for a while. Then you will come back to being present again, then you will drift off again, and so the endless cycle happens.

So, the question you might sometimes ask yourself is:

Is there any point in trying to meditate or be present, if my mind is just going to eventually drift off again anyway?

My answer to that is: YES!

Let’s look at this very simply. Most people are lost in their thoughts the vast majority of the time. For most people, they may get occasional brief moments of presence, but will spend most of their time lost in thought. They will be usually either be thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Not only that, they will be very identified with their thoughts/personality/ego.

To put some simple numbers on it, just for the purposes of this article, let’s say that if you don’t have any interest in meditation or presence, you will probably spend 99% of your time lost in thought and identified with your thoughts. Now, let’s say that if you practice meditation or practice being more present in your everyday life, you will perhaps spend half your time actually present and half your time lost in thought – kind of 50/50. So 1% versus 50%, that means you’re 50 times more present whenever you are meditating or trying to be present, than when you are not.

I know that’s a very simplistic way of looking at it, but I just wanted to illustrate a point. I think the tendency with meditation is to expect too much, and then feel bad when we’re not perfect at it all the time. The truth is, everyone gets lost in thought some of the time. Even spiritual gurus and advanced meditators will get lost in thought sometimes. Nobody can sustain thoughtless presence 100% of the time. To be like that would actually mean that there was something wrong with your brain, e.g. part of it missing.

As Adyashanti says, thoughts are not the problem. The problem is when people IDENTIFY with their thoughts too much, and assume that’s who they are. You see, the more you meditate, or the more you try to be present and conscious in your daily life, the more you start to feel an overall feeling that you are not your thoughts, that you are actually far simpler than that. At your core, you are just the empty awareness that everyone is. Thoughts HAPPEN to you. They are not who you are.

There’s nothing wrong with thoughts as such. There are all kinds of thoughts, good and bad, and everything in between. Thoughts are bit like wearing clothes. You’re probably wearing different clothes today than you wore yesterday, and you will probably wear different clothes again tomorrow. Clothes are fine. There is nothing wrong with wearing clothes. But if you think you ARE your clothes, if you think the clothes you wear are who you fundamentally are, then maybe that could be a problem. 

Anyone can wear any fancy clothes. Anyone can do that, the same way anyone can think all kinds of fancy thoughts and build themselves up into some kind of imaginary person. Until one day something causes your sense of “Who I Think I Am” to collapse.

But we’re all naked underneath. Wear whatever clothes you want. But don’t kid yourself that you’re not naked underneath them just like everyone else.

And this is what meditation and presence teach you. Even if you only have brief moments of silence and stillness, they are brief moments where you get a feel for who you really are. It’s like, if you were to spend half your time naked, you would be constantly reminded that you are not the clothes that you use to cover up your nakedness.

So…meditate, and be present; but also allow yourself to be imperfect; allow yourself the freedom to naturally come and go between thought and awareness/presence. Each time you come back to presence, that is like a rebirth, and yet also a death. Everything that is not true dies whenever you return to presence, when you return to your true self.

Maybe we need to get lost sometimes, so we know what it really is to find ourselves again each time. We need black to know what white is by comparison. We need sounds to know what silence is. We need movement to know what stillness is.

So go easy on yourself. Know that it is impossible to be perfect. Whenever you come back to presence, and you notice you were just lost in thought, leave that where it is: in the past, where you can’t do anything about it anyway.

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