Practice Tip: Creating a Story Room

So often during meditation our minds can wander into planning, stories and other thought patterns that lead us away from our present moment experience. When our minds are identified with thought, we miss our breath, sensations and feelings in our body, and the inner and outer sounds arising and passing away. But anyone who has meditated for a while knows quite well that we can’t simply turn off our thoughts.

Sometimes during meditation, when I’m particularly busy and have a lot on my plate, I slip into planning and stories about what I need to do, how I will do it and when. As my mental formations get stronger, I find it challenging to turn my attention back to my immediate experience. But as soon as I notice anxiety in my body related to planning, I begin to relax and dis-identify from the thoughts. Another simple tool I have found useful is a “story room.” Here is where I store planning, stories and other thoughts about upcoming activities. I close the door to this room, reminding myself I can re-enter after meditation. My mind releases and I return to the moment. Any lingering anxiety about “getting it all done” begins to dissipate and I relax into my present moment experience. Inside and outside dissolve into the simplicity of the breath, sensations, sounds, the suchness of this moment. After mediation, I can reenter my story room with a refreshed mind and open heart. My planning is much more effective.