At first (and often second) glance, one of the biggest obstacles to contemplative practice is our thoughts. They are so unruly! Our minds wander, obsess, check out, go to the most outrageous places. It seems that especially when we are trying to focus, to attend to the breath, to concentrate on the prayer, to understand the passage, our thoughts rise up in rebellion and take us away from our intended goal.
One of the greatest gifts of mindfulness is to understand that this is not our fault. This is the way the human mind works. As the Piaseczner Rebbe, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira taught in his “quieting practice,” the constant stream of irrational thoughts that we experience is a difficult part of the human experience.