Don’t ask me how the researchers figure out these things. But the research says that we have an average of 65,000 thoughts a day. About 64,900 are a repetition of the day before. Thus the wheel turns over and over in the mind, compulsively thinking the same mostly mundane thoughts about past, future, and a few select thoughts on the present moment.
Now I am in yoga class this morning. I confess I haven’t been in awhile. My ten minutes of stretching after working out just isn’t enough for me. So, my yoga class is beginning to become a bit torturous in the tight spots, which seem to been multiplying. A voice says “try just paying attention to the breath”. This is what I do during my meditation practice. Why not bring it into daily life? “OK, I’ll try it for awhile”. The more I stay with it, the easier the yoga practice gets. The tight spots are tight, but my mind isn’t fixated on the thoughts that this is torture. By simply putting my attention on the breath, life becomes easier. By the end of class, my energy level is high. I go grocery shopping and return home to face the task of cleaning house. The thoughts start to slide back in, “I’m going to be too tired to clean house. My back is going to hurt”, cascades into endless thoughts about a future state of cleaning in which I am cleaning house in pain. I say to myself, “Let’s see how far I can take this idea of paying attention to the breath”. Slowly I start the housecleaning. I notice, that if I keep bringing my attention back to the breath, I can clean without much back pain. There is slight back pain in the background of my thoughts, but I start to clean more than I usually do. I find that I'm enjoying going slowly and my energy continues build.
After I’m done, I’m feeling a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment that my house is clean and I still have energy. In fact, I have so much energy that I want to write about it. I’ve heard it said many times that mindfulness practice is simple; just keep paying attention to the breath. Theoretically it is easy until this mind begins churning out its quota of 65,000 thoughts a day over the past and future, exhausting me while it does its job.
I’m going to run an experiment, and see how long I can keep returning to the breath, when the thinking mind is not necessary. You may find if you try it that your energy starts to increase as the repetitious thoughts fade into the background. Don’t be discouraged when your mind wanders off. This is very typical, although it takes awhile to train the mind to stay with the breath, just the act of bringing your attention back to it will have profound effects on you. Many people report that they are able to focus better, relax, stay calm, and complete the task at hand without so much effort. I believe that what you experience will be worth the experiment. I’d love to hear from you what worked and what needs some adjustment.