It is estimated that we have 65,000 thoughts a day. Of these thoughts, 90% are considered to be a form of repetition. Imagine that you’re sitting in a coffee shop and watching cars passing each other on the street. Now picture a traffic jam on the street. If you could eliminate 90% of the cars passing by, you would get a much cleaner city and a much more efficient system of transportation. Now compare this to your mind and how clearer things would be if we could simply get rid of this extra fabrication of thoughts. We can see rumination as the major source of toxicity in our mind. We ruminate, dwell on our thoughts and end up overcrowding our mind. What’s more important is that often rumination is associated with a great deal of hostility, and hostility slowly kills us.
We ruminate on thoughts because we believe that our thoughts are ours, under our control and that we can decide when they come and go. Whereas the reality is more that our thoughts carry a huge emotional weight. When we sleep we naturally remove a part of the strong emotional content associated with our thoughts. This is partly why a good sleeping hygiene is so important. When we meditate we do the same. An emotion is a well-orchestrated physiological reaction; an emotion is lived in the body. Any thoughts happening to us will create a physiological transformation, meaning that our body will be transformed by these thoughts. The stronger the emotional content of the thought, the more the body is shaken by the thought. We think we can stop thinking; the act of thinking is not the problem; rather the problem lies within the emotion (body transformation) attached to the thought. This is what makes us believe our thoughts and react to them.
Meditation dissociates the emotional content from the thought. Meditation allows us to see that a thought is a thought and an emotion is an emotion, they are two distinct phenomena. It makes us less reactive to thoughts and thus allows the letting go to take place. It’s all about letting go. Stopping ruminating, feeling less hostile and having a less toxic mind will happen with letting go and reducing the emotional content associated with every thought.
In a sense thinking is not the problem; it is caused because each thought we have shakes the body so much that we react to them and don’t let go. Once we reduce the emotional content of our thoughts, thoughts will naturally diminish and we will let go and live in a less toxic environment.
Pierre Gagnon practised concentration and insight meditation intensively from 2010 to 2012, then went on to study meditation at Wat Suan Mokkh with the venerable Ajahn Po from 2013 to 2015. As well as his own practice, he has coordinated meditation retreats in the south of Thailand which were attended by more than 1,000 people.
Having a great passion in the field of neuroscience, he likes to integrate these concepts into meditation practice. He believes that much of our life is lived resisting and defending against internal and external experiences that people perceive as threats. Through the development of concentration and meditation, we can insightfully see that all experiences are harmless and there is no need to defend of contract around them. Pierre has experience coordinating concentration and insight meditation retreats, teaching the relationship that exists between Buddhism and neuroscience.