After listening to the Buddhist monk, Jack Kornfield, describe ‘Labeling the Thoughts’ as a meditation, I began to try it for myself. As I move through life I am constantly weeding out the good, the bad, and the bullshit. This technique of ‘labeling’ aided me in this process, as the continuous scroll of thought entered my mind. In would pop the time I told my sister she was ugly (I was nine and she was 13.. to this day I am truly apologetic), I label this past. Or rehashing a conversation I had with my boss, my comebacks witty and intelligent, if only I had thought of them then, I label this as ego. As I sit, I silently say grasping, past, future, imagination, judgement, planning, planning, planning.
Although this technique was helping me find, as Jack Kornfield puts it, my top ten playlist, I was still missing the point.
What exactly is the point? Is it to label the thoughts and send them on their way, pushing them back down into the tissues of my memory? Well, that wasn’t working.
So, I stopped. I stopped labeling the thoughts. I moved on to a different meditation which spoke to me. Mantras one day, observing the breath the next, and some days I’d skip meditation all together.
I noticed the changes in my actions and thoughts each day. I noticed the scroll of thoughts getting busier and busier, the judgement of myself growing. My urge to plan, to change, to do getting greater, which made sitting with the self more difficult with each added activity.
What happens when you need direction, someone to point out the path, support you in your journey? If you notice, trusting your intuition, the universe will tell you. The clouds clear and I am left with an opportunity to be with others on the same path as I, giving insight and sharing roadblocks along the way. It is here I am presented with the answer to my initial question, What is the point of labeling the thoughts?
One of the many teachers I am grateful to have, recounted her own experience. Instead of pushing those thoughts away, dismissing them completely, she sat with them. As uncomfortable as this seems, sitting with your own judgement, negative thoughts and emotions, it brings value to this issue.
As you practice this technique, you may begin to notice where, in the body, you hold the thought or emotion. This leads to discovering the habitual patterns which make up the self. To borrow words from Bhavani Maki, this allows us to “…skillfully proceed on the path to develop understanding and refinement of the consciousness. (This) approach allows us to investigate the mind and emotions, how they relate to our patterns of thought and deposit themselves into our behavior, character, and personality”.
As I begin, again, labeling the thoughts, I find comfort in the uncomfortable. The path to happiness and freedom isn’t an easy one, but it is the most interesting one I have been on.
I hope this finds you well on your path to a joyful and free life.