During my monthly “tête à tête” with Richard Miller, he said that I was struggling with trains of thought – at which point l exclaimed “I’ve been railroaded!” We had a good chuckle about that!

Here’s How to Get Off the “Trains of Thought”: There’s the nightmare train, the soap opera train, the “I’m not enough” train, the horror show train, the “It’s not fair” train, the “They’re out to get me” train – the list of trains is endless.

Being flooded and overwhelmed by thoughts and their accompanying emotions is common; it’s like being on a freight train that can’t stop because of the weight of its habit. This habitual thinking is called Monkey Mind by Buddhists. Compulsive thinking, like all addictions, can be a drug that distracts from inner pain, or it can reveal a deeper inner equanimity.

Contrast is how we know things; we know clouds because they contrast with the sky. We know thoughts because they contrast with silence. This makes thoughts very useful because we can use them as pointers to the Silence of our True Nature. iRest reveals 5 “Pointer Sisters” which I will write about in an upcoming post. In order to use thought trains to reveal your deeper equanimity one needs to step back and observe the train going past, just as a witness would. Stepping back is a powerful practice that can give some distance from the loco-motion.

The 1st step in practicing being a Witness / Observer is to mindfully inquire into the accompanying sensations, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, memories and images, without judgement or refusal. One of my favourite non-dual singer / song-writers is Kirtana, who, in her “Train Song” said;

“Trains of thought will come and go,
but you are not your thoughts, you know –
so why get all caught up in where they lead?
“Even when you’re feeling frightened,
sad or hurt or unenlightened,
you can find a peace
that underlies what passes by.
Don’t mistake the weather for the sky (of your being)
Why mistake the weather for the sky?”

The 2nd step is to turn the inquiry back around into the Observer and ask “what is this Witnessing?” What does it feel like? The answer is not a thought but a felt-sense. Take a few moments right now to feel back into yourself as outside of the thought train. (One way to do this is to look for where a thought arises from) Usually this felt-sensed answer reveals itself as an open spaciousness.

“You are who these thoughts
are passing through – don’t you see.
You are who these thoughts are passing through.
Be free. Be free.”

The 3rd step is to realize that all these thoughts (and their accompanying sensations, emotions, images, memories, and beliefs), like the train, are temporary and just passing through.

“Feelings rise then fall away –
even those you wish would stay,
so why equate your sense of self with mood?
You are who emotion passes through – don’t you see.
You are who emotion passes through.
Be free. Be free.”

The 4th step is to let yourself fall back into, and rest in, its everlasting arms for half a dozen breaths. It’s exquisite. Practice this often. Strengthen and nurture this inner resource. With practice, in time, you may realize yourself as this Unchanging Ground of Being that is experienced as open spaciousness.

“You are who these thoughts
are passing through – don’t you see.
You are who these thoughts are passing through.
Be free. Be free.”

Human beings have a built-in “negativity bias” which served a survival function millennia ago. About 80% of the 50,000 or so thoughts we have each day are negative / repeating loops of fear based in the past and projected into the future. When we find ourselves in negative loops we are operating out of our primitive brain. Fear impairs the ability to make appropriate responses to life events.

In 400 CE, when Patanjali wrote in the Yoga Sutras (verses 2.33 and 2.34), “pratipaksha bhavanam” which suggests replacing negative thoughts with their opposites, or seeing the positive in “negative” situations, thereby cultivating a balanced and flexible mind. In iRest, this manifests as the use of the opposites.

Natural opposites can be found in the chaos of train thoughts versus the inherent tranquility of the Witnes. However, we can also practice imagine positive images that are opposite to the looping negative thoughts of the untamed monkey mind (originally I typed money mind, which also applies!).

How To Use Thinking Constructively:  Thinking all the time is not necessary; It can be replaced with a wordless Awareness. You already know this experience – it’s akin to when you’re sitting on the beach with your favourite drink and all of your desires have been satisfied.  The mind is only needed when planning, analyzing, or responding to your name is necessary.

When we are not thinking we can sit back, like on the beach, and rest in Open Spacious Silence. Then, when the world calls us for a response we come out to meet the world. When the world has been met we can return into Silence until the world needs us again.

“Remembering Yourself” is what you might call this practice. We anchor into the true stability of the unchanging even in the face of the unfolding of life. If we do not, then we may be sucked into trying to change the changing, to stop the train.

“You are who these scenes
are passing through – don’t you see.
You are who this play is passing through.
Be free. Be free.”

The secret is to notice when you have “boarded the train” and instead to step back into your own natural heart-centred http://www.discoveryoganidra.ca/wp-admin/edit.phpstillness that is never not there.

“Just because the tracks are laid…
or just because your ticket’s paid for…
and some crazed conductor keeps on calling out your name,
you don’t need to board the train.
No, you don’t need to board the train.”

Header Image by Robert Deyber


Next Week: An Intro to iRest & Yoga Nidra

PNB HeadShot Preferred rnd cornersPhilip Beck is a Certified iRest Yoga Nidra Teacher, a graduate of the Spiritual Psychotherapy program at Transformational Arts College, and a 500-hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher. He lives in Toronto and works with people who want to reconnect with themselves and their passion. Free discovery sessions are available in person, by Skype or FaceTime. You can email Philip here or  book Philip here for your complementary first session.

For a free 11 minute mp3 & PDF for relaxation, sleep and focus check out the home page. You’ll also receive blog posts and information about courses and workshops. Want to be inspired? You can follow Discover Yoga Nidra on FaceBook, by clicking here.

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