Oh, how we love to think! We worry, plan, reminisce, rehearse, analyze, criticize and judge… and while of course thinking is necessary, according to Eckhart Tolle, thinking can become an addiction. Thinking is a hidden addiction – people are unaware that they are addicted to thinking.
The symptoms of an addiction to thinking are easy to spot: anxiety and stress. But its consequences can be serious: being wrapped up in thought to the point of being unaware of what is going on now leads to car accidents, shoddy work, miscommunication with loved ones, and missing out on the joy of life.
Eckhart explains that racing thoughts are the mind’s way to get away from the simplicity and the “is-ness” of the present moment. It is a way of resisting what is, especially if the situation isn’t wanted. Thoughts are usually either in the future (What will happen? What will go wrong?) or in the past (If only I could go back and…) and not present. The resistance to what is, and being stuck in future – and past – thinking, causes stress and anxiety!
If your brain is flooded with too many thoughts – thoughts that won’t stop and won’t give you peace – just watch this wonderful video by Eckhart Tolle on how to break the addiction to thinking, so you can experience inner peace.
Here’s the video:
In the video, Eckhart explains that you can stop your runaway thoughts and your engagement in them, with presence. Presence, or “being here, now” means you are fully engaged in what you are doing (or not doing), either to the point your thoughts completely stop, or you are aware you are having thoughts but your attention is on what you are doing.
There is no need to get all analytical about thought, and there is no need to try hard to stop your thoughts. Eckhart suggests a simple practice of learning to pull your attention to the present using your senses, and not giving in to compulsively naming, analyzing and judging what is around you.
There is also a delightful small practice that Eckhart demonstrates in the video, “between now and now, were you thinking?” It’s worth watching because this is an easy way to become present instantly!
You can learn to master your mind by being present and by realizing you don’t have to engage in any thought that your mind generates!
Here’s a great example of how presence helps you appreciate what is around you: just because you see a tree doesn’t mean you have to start thinking about the tree: “oh look at that tree with its beautiful leaves, I wonder what it’s called, that one big branch is hanging kind of low, somebody should trim it, I wonder what color the leaves will turn in autumn… (bla, bla, bla)”.
Pretty soon you’re lost in thought and you’re not really seeing the tree anymore because your mind is flooded with thoughts relating to the tree but that have moved beyond the tree! When you learn to master your mind, you can see the tree, enjoy its beauty, and yet, not engage in thought about it.
Practice this as a walking meditation: Focus on your breath as you walk, and simply notice what is all around you without cataloguing, analyzing or even naming things. Just observe. The act of giving your focus to non-judgmental observation brings you into the present with its awareness, and you gradually release the need to always be in thought!