I was in the middle of working on a presentation when my friend Jorden stopped me and asked if I’d be up for trying out a meditation technique he’d been shown. This isn’t so strange – we’ve created a workshop series together that explores the best of contemplative and philosophical ideas on different topics. I was 100% in for the ride and Jorden began to guide me through a short meditation. By the time we finished, I was astounded at the simplicity and power of what he’d just shown me.
One simple question
Jorden had been introduced to this at a workshop he’d participated in, but after a little research, we found it came from the book ‘The Power Of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. Here’s Tolle explaining how the method works:
“Try a little experiment. Close your eyes and say to yourself: “I wonder what my next thought is going to be.” Then become very alert and wait for the next thought. Be like a cat watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to come out of the mouse hole?” – Eckhart Tolle
I told you it was simple, right?
The power of this technique is that it engineers a moment of strong awareness that can be repeated throughout any meditation session. I often find that it creates a feeling of stillness, where thoughts disappear and I’m left observing everything around me: sounds, sensations, the objects in my peripheral vision. Of course, I also have moments where I’m repeating this and become distracted. But I find that coming back to this phrase is more powerful than simple breath counting techniques.
How to practice this method
Sitting with Jorden that day, as he guided me through this method, I had a moment of true clarity – just a moment, but enough to open the door to something much bigger – that felt like a breakthrough. Since then I’ve been experimenting with it in my daily practice.
Here are 6 steps you can follow to bring this in your own meditation practice:
- Sit up straight, somewhere comfortable and free from distractions.
- Place your hands on your knees or with one hand resting on top of another, so your thumbs can meet and make a circle.
- Begin by breathing deeply 4 times. This should bring your awareness to your breath and start to centre you. After these 4 breaths, let your natural breathing rhythm return and continue to observe the rising and falling of your breath.
- Once still, ask yourself ‘What is my next though?’ And then focus observing whatever arises next.
- When thoughts arise, watch them and note their existence then ask yourself the question again.
- Repeat until your meditation session is over.
I could go on at length here about why and how this technique is powerful – but that would defeat the purpose. Sit and try this yourself, that’s really what this is all about. This technique is about your mind and your experiences – and only you can experience that. If this tool works for you, great. If not, move on and try another.
Additional techniques to go deeper
Simplify and breathe out: I’ve found that simplifying the phrase to ‘My next thought’ also focuses the mind in a similar way. Then by repeating this on each out breath it almost becomes a mantra that provides a clear line of focus throughout a meditation session.
Where does the thought come from: a similar technique – one I found while practising ‘my next thought’ – is to observe where the words themselves arise from in your mind. Try and locate them physically in your head as they arise. This can lead to some interesting insights about the nature and origin of your thoughts.