Inside your head, there is a very busy freeway, and your thoughts are cars that continuously go by. The usual action is to see a car pass by you, and immediately run out into traffic and chase it. You follow that car wherever it may go, even if it spirals out of control and crashes.
This is my description of an animation video from Headspace, the app I use to meditate with. At first, this video seemed silly to me. Then as time passed, I began to notice that the ideas in it seemed eerily similar to how I regarded my thoughts each day. First, a thought would pop up. Maybe something like, ‘I hope my boss likes the project I completed’ and then… ‘I’m worried he didn’t like it..’ I would latch onto this thought and follow it. The problem is, at times following one thought can lead to another more dramatic or dangerous thought. ‘What if my boss hated my work?’ and then ‘What if I get fired soon?’
Suddenly it’s five minutes later and you’re wondering if you should go home and start selling your old stuff in case you need extra money after you’ve lost your job. All because you decided to follow that first thought.
Instead of immediately following our thoughts, Andy suggests that we begin to just sit on the side of the freeway and observe them go by. After a few months of meditation, I began to notice when a new thought ran across my mind. Instead of latching onto it and following it, I can now practice just observing that this thought appeared. I can watch the cars go by.