Learning how to tame obsessive thoughts
Most people have had the experience of obsessive thoughts. It can get triggered after a breakup, or after a death, or for a number of other reasons. Some of us also have obsessive thinking that shows up for no specific reason. The mind can take a life of its own, over and over intruding with thoughts usually about the past or future, with no end in sight.
In some contemplative traditions they talk of this aspect of the mind as if it were a wild animal that needs to be domesticated. The key to domestication, as with any animal, is to not get too tight to try and remove the animal nature, but to not let the animal run completely wild and wreak havoc. It is the same with the intrusive, wild mind. We can do practices that tame the energy, help it find its home in the body, but at the same time not trying to destroy the wildness completely by becoming overly rigid. If we try to destroy the wildness the mind will only fight back and get stronger. So, what does this all translate to?
It seems one of the best ways to work with obsessive and intrusive thoughts are somatic practices such as yoga. Somatic practices help us locate emotional sensations in the body related to the thoughts. And it is in the body where we can change our relationship to the emotional sensations, learning how to relax the body, and subsequently settling the mind. This is one way that the mind and body are the same. There are other ways to address what feels like an intrusive mind by working with the mind directly with thought stopping techniques, etc. However, I don’t find these techniques alone that effective. Learning how to relax on a deeper, whole body level seems to have a much larger, global effect on disturbances within.