Thoughts meandering

So this morning I was reading some of the audio taped dialogues on the AFT and came across this one - It Is Either Silly Or Sensible. Richard suggests a little ‘thought exercise’ which I actually gave a go and found it very interesting, (relevant bit copied below) :

"Would you like to? It is fun! You start off with an original thought – you may be silent for a while and a thought pops into your head – and you take particular notice of what that thought is. Put a mental circle around it, or some stars or something, to lock that original thought securely. Then just let your thought wander … you wander with your thoughts … following them through to wherever they go. You will go off into a side branch … and that will branch off into another side branch … and into another and another … and so on. Then you are completely lost. This is the normal way of thinking.

Your thoughts meander. Learn to catch yourself meandering; let the meandering go on and after a period of time – three or four minutes – take note. Think to yourself: ‘Wow, where am I at? Where did I start in all this?’ Then you come back to that original thought that you marked and locked in securely. You start with that thought again. Once more, let your thought proceed … this time you will meander off in another direction … and off along another branch … and another … and so on. Once again catch yourself after a while; you may say: ‘Oh, that is interesting, I went off into a side-track there!’ Come back to your original thought that you put a circle around and you will find that it has progressed a little – before you started to meander for the second time you proceeded a short way. So you put a ring around that and – it is so lovely to do this – and then eventually you will be able to follow a thought right through to its very end. And when you do get to the end, some magic can happen. It is so wonderful to do this! You can spend an hour or two doing this; following a thought, meandering, coming back, wandering again, coming back … and so forth"

I remember reading that page a long time ago and I didn’t really bother to try this properly but today I gave it a good go just like Richard suggests and it did lead to something pretty magical!
I followed a thought through its path and watched it meander and a few things became clear. First of all the meandering is this brain making sense of the world, it is considering new data, pursuing new lines of enquiry, re-assessing already existing information etc and this happens completely of its own accord, it is the way thought naturally operates, ‘I’ am not required for this at all.
Secondly and this is related to the first point ‘I’ am actually a spanner in the works. I could see as the thought meandered that it would eventually bump into a part of ‘me’, it would inevitably trigger an emotion which would then set off secondary emotional responses etc.
It is quite funny really because ‘I’ so passionately feel in charge of this life and yet from this experiment I can see actually it is the other way around. This brain is marvellously capable of processing information all of its own accord, the ‘me’ who feels in control of this process is actually the thing stopping it from running smoothly!

This little experiment has left me contemplating a big question, “what am I still here for?”. I have read Richard mention this before and I have understood it to an extent, that ‘I’ am not necessary. But to see it so clearly that even the complex thought processes happen of their own accord has caused a big shift in seeing for me.

I would be interested to see if anyone gives this a go and their findings.


I have tried this long time ago and saw pretty much the same as you. And when I added this experience to what is experienced in PCEs, your question (which was mine too)…

…led me to the understanding and experiential conviction that it (“I”) once had to be evolutionarily useful, but no longer is. And this does not only include some feelings but also the meandering of thoughts (as opposed to deliberately using the ability of thinking, as can be seen in PCEs).

So, this exercise reaffirmed my conviction that we are in a position to deliberately change the way we function, for the better.

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Thanks @Miguel, what is not clear to me is your distinction between thought meandering and deliberate use of thought in a PCE. I guess the best way to clarify for me would be to go and have a PCE with this in mind :stuck_out_tongue: But in the meantime could you go into more detail on this? From the experiment it seemed to me that thought meandering (going off towards different lines of enquiry of its own accord) was nothing to do with ‘me’ and that this meandering would be more or less happening in the same way when in a PCE except that the whole process would not be influenced by the affective faculty and as such it would function smoother and clearer, most likely with a lot less thought operating in general and none of the thoughts being related to ‘me’. It is like the brain grabs a bit of information, fiddles with it and then moves on. Would this not be the case in a PCE and what exactly would be the deliberate use of thought instead?

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Oh, I never thought of that posibility/interpretation, because at least in my case it cannot occur in PCEs, although it can occur in EEs.

True :blush:

Ok, so although I am in the process of translating at least part of my diaries in which I wrote in detail these experiences and my reflections about them, perhaps it would be better to share right now an ad hoc translation of some fragments that you might find useful.
Keep in mind that there may be differences in how I might present them in the future, because many require explanations/clarifications for third parties that I naturally did not write for myself, that I might put together several as a reflection on a topic or merge their common factors in a single piece of writing, etc -and remember that I tend to write in spanish with english words-. What follows is in the second person as are parts of an [already edited] account I made by e-mail to a friend many years ago:

“Once again appears the difficulty in describing what I experienced…
It was a total absence of thoughts. Again, not like when we feel that our mind is ‘empty’ or when we perceive a certain inner silence, but a sudden realization that there is always a noise in the background and that there has never been a silence like this before…
Suppose you enter a furnished room that has no contact with outside noises and where there is nobody. You stand in the middle, do not make any movement, you can even close your eyes and listen carefully. What do you hear? Nothing. Silence.
Now paint yourself the same situation but taking the furniture out of the room, like when you move out and you are left with the same apartment but with the rooms empty. What do you hear? Nothing either. Also silence. But another silence. Deeper and more singular. It is not even only due to the absence of sounds. One senses something different. A different emptiness.
Similarly, it was not as if I was just in a silent mind, but in an empty mind”.

Leaving aside in this case considerations about what state “I” was, I had the time and intention to deliberately think about what I was experiencing:

"I thought that this state would soon disappear […]. After being like that for a while, I noticed then that at least there were something: those thoughts about the state soon disappearing… But it was as if they rumbled with the characteristic sound of empty places, and there was no undertone, no reverberation, no echo. They disappeared as soon as they came up. But I also noticed a clear separation between those thoughts arising from within, and being “independent” of the environment, of the background -what would be the usual “sound of furnished places”-; they did not arise from or were connected with the environment. Those thoughts were not generated by circumstance (by what I saw, for example). There were no thoughts related to what I saw. I knew what I was seeing and even one of the aspects I deliberately thought about was: ‘But I know what I am seeing; what is this or that…’ ".

However, those direct percepts lacked the usual automatic thoughts that arise after the percept is felt (described well by Richard at Attentiveness And Sensuousness And Apperceptiveness). Also, the understanding of those percepts were not mediated or accompanied by a mental voice, thoughts about them or conceptual translations. And all this is what I relate to [necessarily unintentional] meandering thoughts vs the deliberate use of thought.

The next three-hour PCE allowed me to experience and describe all this in greater detail, and the EE from 22:30 on 07/30/13 to noon on 07/31/13 allowed me compare and write about it but without the self in abeyance… All of this is part of what I was planning to put on the forum, in my journal.


Hi Kuba - I remember about a year ago being in bed and dedicating approximately 60 mins to trying that experiment. Nothing profound or magical occurred and I eventually gave up on it. Maybe I wasn’t pursuing very interesting lines of thought? I remember I took the instruction literally and put a thought in my head like ‘popsicle’ and then observed where it went from there. I would notice it ending up on something totally unrelated like ‘Saddam Hussein’ before I’d double back to the initial thought. Following the journey of the thought process and paying attention to its mechanisms was interesting enough but when I circled back to the original thought I suppose I failed to see the purpose of advancing the thought of a ‘popsicle’. You can advance the thought of a popsicle only so far before a sense of pointlessness sets in. Maybe I’ll give it a go again later but will try to follow a thought that involves something more personally significant or relevant.

Interesting sidebar: a large chunk of material on the AFT website concerns the writings of J. Krishnamurti, predominately from the List B correspondence section of the site. Sometimes when reading a correspondence I’d check up on a source that Richard or his correspondent referenced pertaining to something Krishnamurti said, which then led to checking up on other available material on the internet, which branched off into other material and so on, not unlike the twists and turns and branching-off of the thought-process. Some time ago while doing this I came across a video of Krishnamurti, which I cannot locate now, wherein what he was saying brought back to mind the thought-experiment Richard was discussing and which you have now experimented with. I then recalled how during his enlightenment days he was a deep reader of Krishnamurti, to the point where Krishnamurti was his sole reading material for the better part of a year. For instance:

Richard (2000): Of all the books I read, the one that was most informative for me was his pencil-written diary spanning six weeks, where profound ‘otherness’ events were happening for him. (…). It was the only book I initially took with me when I went through a time I call my ‘puritan period’. I eventually whittled my worldly possessions down to three sarongs, three shirts, a cooking pot and bowl, a knife and a spoon, a bank book and a pair of nail scissors … but for eight months or so that was my only reading material (…).

It made me wonder of the general influence Krishnamurti had on Richard when he was absorbing Krishnamurti’s words and trying to make sense of the experience he had inadvertently found himself in. Had Krishnamurti even inspired Richard’s thought-process exercise? Or was it that because they were both fascinated by the mechanisms of thought that their methods of studying thought resembled each other? Whatever the case, it is inconsequential but it was amusing to wonder about.

Krishnamurti (n.d.): Pursue a thought completely to its very end. Think it out fully, feel it out and discover for yourself what happens. You will find that there is no thinker at all.

Richard (n.d.): … and then eventually you will be able to follow a thought right through to its very end. And when you do get to the end, some magic can happen. (…)

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Interesting. I remember having success with “direct pointing” many many years ago. At least 12.

The coming back to the instruction "there is no ‘you’ ; look! "

The circling back to the same thought. The same mental place.

Perhaps the particular thought is important? Maybe that’s why “popsicle” wasn’t fruitful?

What was the thought you started with @Kub933?

Ha, maybe. I think you got it, Andrew. The intent behind the thought experiment is perhaps important. The intent to find where the thought leads to while keeping in mind where it originated from. Like you noticed it circles back. The thought begins with me and ends with me. I am the thought and the thought is me, no difference between thought and thinker. “The observer is the observed”, etc. (Going out on a limb with this).

@Andrew I don’t remember what the thought was, but I do remember that there was no intent in terms of following a specific thought. To me it seemed that the whole point of the exercise was to observe the thoughts meandering instead of looking for a specific outcome. In that regard looking for a specific train of thought would prevent what the exercise is intended to demonstrate which is the process in which thinking naturally operates, the meandering. This is what was magical to observe that there was no ‘me’ doing the meandering, it was happening of its own accord and ‘I’ was actually spoiling it by getting emotionally involved and looking to control the thinking. I am not too familiar with direct pointing but based on your example it does appear to be 180 degrees opposite to this exercise. In your example there is already a presupposed concept - “there is no you” and then ‘I’ am looking to recognise this within myself which is really ‘me’ attempting to manifest and live inside another emotional/mental construct.

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I would say definitely going out on a limb with this :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: “I am the thought and the thought is me, no difference between thinker and thought, the observer is the observed”,this appears to be slowly veering towards ‘me’ transforming to become ‘that’, becoming ‘the universe’ etc which is the direction of the delusion of enlightenment. ‘I’ am forever separated from pure thought by virtue of being the thinker which is really the feeler. If ‘I’ disappear then thinking happens of it’s own accord but there is no ‘me’ being the thought either, this is where pure thought would operate, the mind free of the thinker and the feeler.

Snap The branch was super shaky I admit. Whether Krishnamurti’s version relates to his “observer is the observed” refrain or how the end of a train of thought brings the thinker to an end is I find a bit of a mystery. In Richard’s version the very end of the thought brings about something magical, presumably the end of thinker and feeler. How the mechanics from either of those experiments results in the way they report – only thought sans thinker – remains beyond my understanding. The “end of a thought” (from both versions), not just the end of a “thinker”, is itself to me a curious and mysterious notion.

Hmm yes I definitely don’t remember experiencing the end of thought when doing that exercise but what I did observe was that thinking itself is not the problem, therefore attempting to stop thought seems pointless. To see that ‘I’ am not necessary for thought to operate smoothly (and in fact I am a hindrance to this) was the magical part for me. That thought is the activity of this brain making sense of the world and it does not need ‘me’.

It’s a wonderful thing you benefited as you did from the experiment, a moment of magic is a truly precious thing.

Yes, neither Richard’s nor Krishnamurt’s exercises were about attempting to stop thought, but about following a single thought all the way to its “very end.”

You followed the thought and while a few things became clear to you and something magical happened, you never finished that thought. The end of a thought … what lies there?

Or maybe the thought ended at the point where the magic began happening? Or did it continue?

Sorry I just re-read your post and I mistakenly took what you wrote as an end to thought all together but now I see you actually wrote the end of a thought. I had a look at my initial post in this thread and I wrote that I did follow a thought through to its end but I do not remember that part now. I do not remember anything magical coming from precisely the moment I followed the thought through to the end. Hey maybe the best way to find out is to give it another go :stuck_out_tongue:

I can’t locate the part where you wrote that you followed the thought all the way to its end.

The impression I got was that for you there was a meandering of thought until it seemed to you that the meandering of thought was happening of its own accord and had nothing to do with you:

Which is not an insignificant thing at all, but the objective of the experiment was to follow a single thought – meandering or otherwise – all the way to the “very end”.

Your meandering of thought continued on after you realized it had nothing to do with you.

What does it mean to finish a thought? How does one know that the thought is completed? The question itself seems nonsensical, but there must be something to it.

(Is this thought coming to an end right here as I sign off?)

I just did this now and it seems once I have meandered though the thoughts multiple times and then came back to the original thought, the original thought eventually had no further lines of enquiry, the meandering stopped. The thought was “I wonder how my chicken is cooking :laughing:” I’m about to enjoy it now :grin:.

I’d be interested to hear how this experiment would look for @Srinath and @geoffrey, do your thoughts meander?

Hopefully the end of that thought will indeed end in something magical :joy: :poultry_leg: :chicken: Enjoy! Later.


I’ve been trying this experiment since reading this thread. Initially in a sit down session, but now spread out over the day. Sorta like haietmoba. The thought was “peak experience”, which turned into "I have had peak experiences " , to "I can have peak experiences ", and "I am capable of peak experiences ".

I am going with this thought for obvious reasons. The pure intent derived from peak experiences is what does the job.

I am also approaching it tangentially, (peak experiences), via this game.