Friday, March 30, 2007

Hyperlinked thoughts

Amanda asked: "how do you meditate without falling asleep?"

Let me say one thing right upfront - Meditation is the polar opposite to sleep. It is pure wakefulness. Everyday "awakeness" is somewhere in between asleep and pure awake meditation.

So first off - you gotta take your meditation sessions super seriously. It is hard, disciplined work. People can be forgiven for thinking that it is a time of relaxation and "letting-go". It is those things but it's also paradoxical - you gotta both be super relaxed and super alert at the same time.

In many ways, "sleep" is to "awake" , as "awake" is to pure meditation. Have you ever caught yourself "drifting off" at night? I have sometimes, and am vaguely aware of my thoughts halfway between that sleep and wake state. The "drift-off" is always characterised by my mind being pulled further and further away into some dream thoughts. It starts with an awake thought, and that links into another thought, and that into another, and soon the thought that you have linked into is not awake at all, and you are somewhere else.

Meditation is the same. Our daytime thoughts each come with little invisible hyperlinks in them. Like one minute you'll be thinking about the sunshine on the window, and the next minute you will be thinking about jail. And you ask yourself: "How did I get here?". Probably it went something like this:

...the sunshine reminded you of swimming last summer, which reminded hyperlinked you to the new costume you wore, which hyperlinked to the old friend you met at the shop where you bought it, which hyperlinked you to the time you and your friend got caught drunken driving and spent a night in jail. All in a split second.

Being the equivalent of our "global brain" the internet demonstrates this tangental thinking perfectly. How often have you set out on the web to find something specific and landed up somewhere totally different, and didn't know how you got there?

So our daily thoughts look like this, one leading into the next, leading into the next.

Often, the first time we observe just how linked our thoughts are, is exactly when we sit down the first time to meditate. Because that's what meditation is:


more specifically:


Sounds easy but its not. There is always another sneaky thought lurking there waiting to hijack your mind and take you away. And when it does, you are no longer aware that you are not thinking about what you are thinking.

So it takes practice. Plenty. And eventually, once you've progressed a bit, you can be vigilant as to the hyperlinks. You will never stop thoughts arising, but when they do, you will stick with the thought, let it arrise, and let it subside without getting pulled in any other direction. Once you've got the better of the hyperlinks, your mind may look more like this:

The rings are still the thoughts. But you will see that there are now gaps between the rings. And it is in these gaps that pure meditation wakefulness is happening.


  1. thanks, nice job explaining. have your headaches subsided yet?

  2. That's a great explanation, thank you. Meditation was always one of those things I heard but never really knew about. The image needs some serious revamping. :)

  3. Hyperlinks on thoughts. What a great way to explain bipolar. Manics can't stop clicking. Depressives can't find the mouse.

  4. Great post my fellow practitioner.

    I bow to the Buddha within you. _/I\_

    Present moment, wonderful moment. Only moment. :)

  5. this is an EXCELLENT explanation.


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