Illustration by Jon Lander https://www.instagram.com/lander_jon/?hl=en
Years ago I was rabbiting away about how chatty my mind gets when I sit to meditate, planning to pay attention to my breath. Noisy. Annoying. I had recently found out that this happens to most other people too.
"You start chasing your thoughts around. Your thoughts start chasing you around. If you can put the thoughts into categories you realise it's the same stuff all the time, and then sometimes they give up chasing you around. My thoughts are always about Family, Work or Friends. I was a bit disappointed that my range was so limited. But now I can say to myself 'Oh, look, you're worrying about Rose again' (or Jon or Chris or Jeremy or my mother or my father or my brother) 'it's family again'. And it makes me laugh how my thoughts kept repeating - I didn't know that before. It had seemed like it was new and urgent each time. It helps me a lot", I said.
And then Michelle Lewin, yoga enthusiast, scientist and magical friend, told us that she used a basket system to put the thoughts into, so they kind of disappear into the basket. You can just chuck the thought into its basket and get back to paying attention to your breath. The baskets can be something that suits you. A tiny delicate thing like Michelle's in the illustration, great big plastic things like compost bins, beautiful willow woven...
It's not a failure when you get distracted, it's human, it's finding out about yourself. It is a bit of a triumph when you notice though, and when you successfully get that thought into that basket and begin again. The breath. This breath. This moment.
Your baskets can be labelled any old how. They could be different on different days, and they may change over the years. You just keep finding a system that works for you.
One for past and one for future.
One for planning and one for day-dreaming and one for worrying.
You could just have one basket and call it 'thinking'.
These days my system is usually one for family and one for teaching or one for planning and one for day-dreaming. And sometimes one for chickens.