Q: What does it mean to ‘run after thoughts’ and, conversely, to let thoughts naturally arise and settle? If I let my thoughts naturally arise, I will be somewhere else entirely with them in seconds. That is, if I don’t stop them. I’m not chasing after them; they just go. Does letting them end up where they end up mean I’m chasing after them, or does it mean I’m letting them settle naturally? Letting them go where they are apt to seems like monkey mind to me. So just what does it really mean to not chase after them? Or what does it mean to let them naturally arise and settle?… My continued thanks.
A: You mention above in your reflections: “I’m not chasing after them; they just go.” That’s exactly the answer to your questions about how to deal with thoughts. To let thoughts naturally arise and settle means to allow the natural flow of mental processes but not to indulge in or repress them. One’s attitude and understanding has to radically change towards thoughts themselves, and you should investigate deeply to see exactly what thoughts are. If you do this and see this for yourself, then thoughts will no longer be a problem or hold any sway over you.
Firstly, you need to recognise that thoughts are just a natural process as a result of conditioning which arise from the ‘Ground of Being’. In and of themselves they are NOT a problem – they are a natural display and if we make a problem out of them, they only getting bigger and stronger. So, allow them to arise, but be AWAKE and mindful – don’t get pulled into them, don’t run away with them, and don’t get tricked into believing any of them, especially the negative self-talk but even the good ones. But also, don’t try to repress or control them – that will only make you tight and tense. Learn to be light about them, laugh at them and take them all with a grain of salt. If you adopt that attitude they will quickly settle and subside and with time and practice become less and less.
Secondly, when the mind becomes calmer and more settled in meditation, you can actually investigate thoughts clearly and see for yourself what they are in Reality. What are they? Nothing… they are merely fleeting, ephemeral dream impressions that float in the mind-sky. They are not really different from night time dreams. They cannot harm you; they cannot hurt you – they are complete fairy floss. They only cause harm when we believe them and take them as ‘me’ or ‘my thoughts’ and then all sorts of harm can arise from them. I hope some of this helps you to find your inner peace which is there all the time really, and only clouded by these passing thoughts.