Q18. Whenever I practice Zen meditation, a lot of thoughts and ideas prevent me from focusing my attention to my question. I spend most practice time struggling to get rid of the thoughts. How can I remove my thoughts and concentrate on my question?

A. Very good question. That is the most common problem we are faced with during practice. Even very old memories of your childhood you have forgotten so far come into your mind and keep you from focusing your attention to your question. Don’t try to stop your thinking or remove your thoughts. The harder you try to do away with the thoughts, the more thoughts will arise. So, don’t try to fight against your thoughts. You will lose the battle exhausted. If you repeat the same pattern many times, you will be so exhausted and discouraged that you might come to give up your practice in the long run. However, the solution to the problem is very simple and easy.

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Just trace back to the root which the thoughts stem from. When you are angry, just trace back to the root from which your anger comes out. The moment you see or reach the root, you will see yourself as you are, or reach your final goal. What an easy and nice practice this is! Then, the more thoughts come to you, the more practice you can do. Why should we struggle to remove our thoughts? In this way you can turn your problems into practice.

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway.

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