Meditative action

How do you meet unpleasant thoughts and feelings in meditation? At a recent meditation course in Taiwan, all participants had learnt and understood that when you discover that you are lost in thoughts, you just return gently to the repetition of the meditation sound, while allowing thoughts to come and go. But when one participant told the group about being bothered by recurring thoughts about somebody who had behaved badly in the past, there came at least 4 different suggestions about what to do:

1) continue thinking until the thoughts go away by themselves
2) use the meditation sound to suppress the thoughts
3) make the meditation sound and the thoughts appear in tandem
4) transform the negative thoughts into more positive ones

In fact, all these solutions imply a non-acceptance of the thoughts and therefore of yourself. It’s as if these thoughts require you to do something beyond the general rule. They touch upon deep fears of accepting life as it is – with its imperfections and, at times, pains. The belief that you can relieve yourself from this situation by doing something extra is rooted in an unwillingness to see the actual situation. The paradox is that the only way to begin a lasting process of change is to accept things as they are.


  1. Uwe

    one should think that the option
    0) just return gently to the repetition of the meditation sound
    would be the most obvious. I guess that you discussed this topic – did anyone explain why it was _not_ that obvious at all?

  2. olego

    On an instinctive or reflexive level in some way to fight or try to get away from the negatiave thoughts will seem the most natural solution to most people. It would also be the easy way out – if it really was the way out. That acceptance in the long run is the best way to reduce the influence of the negative thoughts requires some kind of sophistication to understand. –

  3. Uwe

    As it is with mankind most of the time – understandable but mysterious at the same time.

  4. Halvor

    I guess that’s also part of the reason why so many meditative traditions – as well as “positive psychology” – aim to get rid of thoughts instead of welcoming or at least accepting them.

  5. Per S.P.

    It seems to me, a layman, that the concept of acceptance is is gaining territory within clinical psychology as well through the approach called Mindfullness Cognitive Behaviour Psychology. As oppossed to ordinary CBT which aimes to change feelings by means of working with perceptions, Mindfullness CBT aims to change through non-reaction, acception. People also usually learn different techniques, among them meditation where the meditation object is the breath, which helps them identify their mental reaction patterns, not trying to fix them, but being consiouss of them.

    All this seems to based on the point which mr. Olego made, that running from your thoughts, fears etc. increases their influence in the long run, quite often also in shorter perspectives.

  6. Halvor

    Yes, and those who read Norwegian can actually read about this in the next issue of Dyade, on mindfulness and meditation.

  7. kaifm

    You need to start publishing Dyade in English 🙂

  8. Halvor

    Ah yes, I wish it was our mother tongue. Would have been practical!

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