No matter what style of meditation you practice, you’ve probably heard the following refrain: “And if you find your mind wandering, non-judgmentally make a note of where your mind went, and let that thought drift away as you return your awareness to __________.”
I’ve certainly heard many takes on that teaching, and had plenty of opportunity to implement that advice. In the process, I’ve noted that the places my mind wanders can be classified into several categories.
5.) The Planner: Our conscious mind is first and foremost about answering the question, “What’s the worst that can happen, and how can I make that worst case less bad?” The mind wants to anticipate undesirable events and either make an end run around them or figure out a way to make them less troubling. The Planner wants to rehearse everything from making dinner to being interviewed for a job to having a dreaded conversation.
4.) The Entertainer: This is the mind that sticks songs in your head and replays clips of movies.
3.) The Walter Mitty / The Bolsterer: This is the daydream mind which cooks up scenarios in which you are the hero.
2.) The Subconscious Image Generator: In a relaxed state in which the conscious mind is quieted, one may find oneself seeing images that probably don’t make a lick of sense. The pictures may come and go in a way that make them hard to maintain even a glimpse of. This is the same kind of imagery that one experiences in the hypnagogic state–as one is drifting towards sleep.
1.) The Critic: Saving the most despicable for last; this is your inner critic. The one who thinks that you won’t succeed at any given task.