Dealing with overactive thinking mind

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Digity
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Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by Digity »

I have a real issue with thinking too much. That part of my mind can become very overactive and it often leads to states of unrest. How does one go about stopping this? What should I practice on a daily basis to cut down on this unnecessary rumination that I constantly find myself stuck in? When I'm stuck in it what's the best thing to do to quiet it down?
Spiny Norman
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Re: Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by Spiny Norman »

Digity wrote:I have a real issue with thinking too much. That part of my mind can become very overactive and it often leads to states of unrest. How does one go about stopping this? What should I practice on a daily basis to cut down on this unnecessary rumination that I constantly find myself stuck in? When I'm stuck in it what's the best thing to do to quiet it down?
I find that re-establishing mindfulness in the body is helpful.
Buddha save me from new-agers!
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bodom
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Re: Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by bodom »

I will use thought to overcome thought. Something akin to this instruction from Ajahn Chah:
The important thing is to sustain moment to moment awareness of the mind. If you are really caught in mental proliferation, then gather it all together, and contemplate it in terms of being one whole, cut it off right from the start, saying, "all these thoughts, ideas and imaginings of mine are simply thought proliferation and nothing more. It's all anicca, dukkha and anatta. None of it is certain at all." Discard it right there.
:namaste:
But how is a wise lay follower defined?”

“It’s when a lay follower is wise. They have the wisdom of arising and passing away which is noble, penetrative, and leads to the complete ending of suffering. Then they’re considered to be a wise lay follower.”

- SN 55:37
Digity
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Re: Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by Digity »

bodom wrote:I will use thought to overcome thought. Something akin to this instruction from Ajahn Chah:
The important thing is to sustain moment to moment awareness of the mind. If you are really caught in mental proliferation, then gather it all together, and contemplate it in terms of being one whole, cut it off right from the start, saying, "all these thoughts, ideas and imaginings of mine are simply thought proliferation and nothing more. It's all anicca, dukkha and anatta. None of it is certain at all." Discard it right there.
:namaste:
I think this is hard to do when the thoughts are being driven by heavy emotions.
SarathW
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Re: Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by SarathW »

Unrest is eliminated only by Arahants.
Observe the precepts and practice Brahama Viharas.
When you say over active what do you mean by this?
I stopped taking alcohol and stimulants such as tea and coffee.
Be mindful. Contemplate on impermanence , stress and Anatta.
By the way this post does not match with your previous post about boredom.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
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bodom
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Re: Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by bodom »

Digity wrote:
bodom wrote:I will use thought to overcome thought. Something akin to this instruction from Ajahn Chah:
The important thing is to sustain moment to moment awareness of the mind. If you are really caught in mental proliferation, then gather it all together, and contemplate it in terms of being one whole, cut it off right from the start, saying, "all these thoughts, ideas and imaginings of mine are simply thought proliferation and nothing more. It's all anicca, dukkha and anatta. None of it is certain at all." Discard it right there.
:namaste:
I think this is hard to do when the thoughts are being driven by heavy emotions.
In situations like that I will use thoughts of loving kindness until the emotions subside. The Buddha recommended thought substitution and used the analogy of a carpenter driving out an old peg with a new one. You cannot think two thoughts at the same time. When you find yourself in an emotional storm with racing thoughts then fill your mind with loving, compassionate thoughts toward yourself until the storm passes. I have found this helpful in my own practice.

:namaste:
But how is a wise lay follower defined?”

“It’s when a lay follower is wise. They have the wisdom of arising and passing away which is noble, penetrative, and leads to the complete ending of suffering. Then they’re considered to be a wise lay follower.”

- SN 55:37
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katavedi
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Re: Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by katavedi »

Hello Digity,
Spiny Norman wrote:I find that re-establishing mindfulness in the body is helpful.
This is good advice from Spiny.

Frequently practicing dropping the whole thinking process, just letting go of it, is helpful too. At first, you may only be able to drop it for a second or two before it returns. But if you keep practicing it frequently, you'll be able to do it for longer and longer stretches. Often, when the thinking process is dropped, the mind reverts to either mindfulness of the body or the changing field of sense contacts.

An alternative strategy is to direct the thinking to reflection, pondering, and examining some Dhamma. You could either read a sutta or a short passage of a quality Dhamma book and, when the mind is restless, direct it toward trying to understand that Dhamma, apply it, and/or connect it with other Dhamma that you know. Putting a restless mind to work on penetrating the Dhamma is not only beneficial for deeper understanding, but quite often you might find that it helps to settle the mind afterward.

Kind wishes,
katavedi
“But, Gotamī, when you know of certain things: ‘These things lead to dispassion, not to passion; to detachment, not to attachment; to diminution, not to accumulation; to having few wishes, not to having many wishes; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to socializing; to the arousing of energy, not to indolence; to simple living, not to luxurious living’ – of such things you can be certain: ‘This is the Dhamma; this is the Discipline; this is the Master’s Teaching.’”
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JMGinPDX
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Re: Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by JMGinPDX »

One thing I've used lately is this meditation object, one that is easy for me since I have a strong-headed 6-year-old boy ;)...

I imagine the middle part of my brain as my "conditioned mind," the one prone to racing and obsessing and thinking. I literally picture the brain matter as an unruly child whose had too much sugar or is too tired or is having a meltdown or throwing a temper tantrum...squirming and twisting and making crazy noises, devoid of any calm objectivity.

Then I picture the frontal lobe of my brain as the "Buddha mind," calm and equanimitous and loving...like an understanding and compassionate parent or teacher.

I then picture the Buddha mind literally rising up (usually in the form of a ghostly white image of Gautama Buddha) and reaching down to embrace and hold the conditioned mind in its arms, saying "shhh it's going to be ok, be quiet and calm" and rocking back and forth or stroking, just as a parent might soothe a child who is "in the zone."

This helps me differentiate my conditioned mind - how I am - from my Buddha mind - how I should be - and that gives me the objectivity to diminish the importance of my thoughts. At the same time, I'm practicing metta and Karuna for myself and quieting the mind with love rather than disappointment or anger at myself.

But that's just me :) thanks for letting me contribute to this discussion.
Right now, it's like this...
santa100
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Re: Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by santa100 »

MN 20 provides a general approach for the relaxation of unwholesome thoughts. SN 46.53 give more specific details about the appropriate methods to counter restlessness and worry(uddhaccaKukkhucca). Both suttas emphasize the importance of maintaining mindfulness throughout:
In the same way, monks, when the mind is restless, that is the right time to develop calm as a factor for awakening, concentration as a factor for awakening, equanimity as a factor for awakening. Why is that? The restless mind is easy to still with those mental qualities.

"As for mindfulness, I tell you, that serves every purpose."
Digity
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Re: Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by Digity »

Thinking is one of my biggest strengths and weaknesses. It's strongly developed in me and in some ways I've been able to derive a lot of wisdom from it, but it's also been a great source of sorrow. I sort of have a love/hate relationship my thinking mind. Maybe once a week I get bogged down in thoughts and it leads to a snowball effect of negativity. I know that these are just thoughts and I'm aware that I'm just caught up in these mental sankharas. That usually isn't enough to put an end to the cycle, because it's usually driven by some heavy emotions that give all the thoughts a great deal of weight, which makes them harder to dispel or sit with peacefully. I wish I had the capacity to just be with real heavy sh*t, but I don't. I can sit with the less heavy stuff, but there's certain things that really are difficult to be with silently. I just don't think I'm strong enough for that yet.

My point is, I'm not sure if these techniques that you guys are describing will work when I'm dealing with more heavy emotional thinking. I don't know if focusing on the body will be enough in those scenarios. Maybe I can try next time. On the plus side, I'm seeing myself fall into the same trap of thinking over and over again. So, maybe with time I'll wise up and stop falling into the trap.
pegembara
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Re: Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by pegembara »

When the mind is in an emotional storm, best to have a good strong anchor.
Imagine you are a ship in open waters.
The breath is your anchor and thoughts are the waves.
If the anchor is not strong enough, you risk getting carried away by the waves.
So just make sure your anchor is strong enough.

Keep practising.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
Pinetree
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Re: Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by Pinetree »

I don't know if focusing on the body will be enough in those scenarios. Maybe I can try next time
For this (for anything, really) to work and be effective, it needs to have solid grounding. What you need is to develop a skill, it's like with a sport or a craft, like tennis, or baseball or pottery or woodworking. We can't download things, from forum to life.

1. At the thought level.

First step is to become aware and note the thoughts as soon as they come up, if possible in the first few seconds. This first step you should practice for few months, for few hours per day, to build up this skill. Or it can be less time, but it will take more time to build up the skill.

This is not exclusive practice, you can practice this together with most daily activities, maybe with the exception of some more difficult/complicated activities.

Patrick Kearney talked once about noticing the features of thoughts as objects (which does not refer to thought content). So, where do the thoughts appear, maybe what shape they have, etc. That may be more difficult, but what should be easier is noticing when thoughts arise and cease.

If you really have trouble with this start writing down on a piece of paper, like every hour or every few minutes, write down what thoughts you had in that time.

2. Next thing, you can either let go of them, like some advice says above or bringing your mind to a convenient object of concentration of your choice, such as the body or body posture or the breathing or another sense object. Again, for few hours per day.

The practice needs to be persistent, so apply it to every thought as soon as you notice it. This can become tricky, because there may be some groups of thoughts that you miss. Like the meta-thoughts - thoughts about thoughts or thoughts about emotions.

When you have some skill at these 2 steps, you can try changing the thoughts every time you notice them, maybe as per Ajahn Chah quote above.

Talking about changing, an important thing is to see the difference between thoughts and emotions. People say often: "I feel useless", which is wrong, correctly it would be: "I think that I am useless" and "I feel upset". This may be best achieved through mental noting, like I practice according to the Mahasi method.

3. About the emotions, you can work at the body level, you can relax, do metta, also see if you can adjust your daily life to avoid some agitating circumstances, foods, activities, etc. Body awareness is very useful to learn to know emotions.

You won't be able to avoid emotions building up each and every time, but try to improve things, as possible.

Another thing, more subtle, is observing the relationship you have to your thoughts. For example, there is the thought, the emotion, and another, let's call it emotion, which is a sense of urgency or driveness that you need to do something about the object of your thought or about the emotion.

Another thing, try to become aware of your angels and your demons (metaphorically speaking). Like in those cartoons, where you have the little devil whispering to your ear. Sometimes it will be like I am think-talking to actual people I know, maybe trying to defend or argue a point of view or make accusations, other times, it's just like another version of my self, or like there is a watcher who has certain demands - as per this link:
http://ajahnsucitto.org/articles/unseat ... er-tyrant/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

And it doesn't matter if it's a "real" person or it is not identified with a person, same thing, same mechanics.
dhammarelax
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Re: Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by dhammarelax »

Digity wrote:I have a real issue with thinking too much. That part of my mind can become very overactive and it often leads to states of unrest. How does one go about stopping this? What should I practice on a daily basis to cut down on this unnecessary rumination that I constantly find myself stuck in? When I'm stuck in it what's the best thing to do to quiet it down?
Check your precepts, are you lying? Precepts and hindrances are related.

Use the perception of impermanence, observe the rise and fall of this thoughts.

Use the perception of not self, that thought is not my is not mine is not myself.

Memorize a sutta and recite it, that can calm the mind.

Put less energy in your practice, balance the energy.

Use a recorded guided meditation.

smile
dhammarelax
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5
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Mkoll
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Re: Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by Mkoll »

Hi Digity,

IME, turning my thoughts from negative to positive ones, from wrong to right intention, helps the most. Stopping thinking is not possible for me as a novice practitioner. Trying to do so just leads to weariness and disappointment. If I ever get to the point where I can stop thought, which AFAICT is only attained in the second jhana, great. If not, that is great too. I have plenty of good work to do in cultivating right intention in the meantime.

Even the Blessed One himself, while he was a bodhisatta, cultivated positive thoughts rather than negative ones: see MN 19.

May we be free from enmity, affliction, and anxiety!

:anjali:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
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dhammacoustic
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Re: Dealing with overactive thinking mind

Post by dhammacoustic »

Digity wrote:I have a real issue with thinking too much. That part of my mind can become very overactive and it often leads to states of unrest. How does one go about stopping this? What should I practice on a daily basis to cut down on this unnecessary rumination that I constantly find myself stuck in? When I'm stuck in it what's the best thing to do to quiet it down?
What do you think about?

All thoughts are fundamentally based on environmental factors and biological processes (experientially; emotion, sensuous clinging), so you cannot "stop" the thought process by forcing your brain to stop thinking, and neither can you control emotion. However, you can use the "will" to generate intention and improve the quality of consciousness, meaning - you are actually able to put a distance between the mental activity and the breathing process. So focus on intelligence (ie; what should be done), rather than the content of the mind (sensuous attractions).

May I suggest you meditate in nature as much as possible. As the limbic system calms down, fixed mental forms (generated by sensuous clinging) become weightless, it gets much easier to control the mind. If the goal is to dis-identify from mentality and maintain a sense of simplicity in life, then the key to that is to constantly witness the nature of clinging.

"When a bhikkhu has heard that nothing is worth adhering to, he directly knows everything. He fully understands everything. Whatever feeling he feels, whether pleasant or painful, or neither-pleasant-nor-painful, he abides contemplating impermanence in them, contemplating fading away, contemplating cessation, contemplating relinquishment. Contemplating thus, he does not cling to anything in the world. When he does not cling, he is not agitated, he attains nibbana."
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