Learn Mindfulness: Practice 19 – Intentional Thoughts and Free Thoughts

Learn Mindfulness: Practice 19 – Intentional Thoughts and Free Thoughts

Learn Mindfulness: Practice 19 – Intentional Thoughts and Free Thoughts 538 283 The Conscious Professional

The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts. – Marcus Aurelius


Have you ever noticed that there are two types of thoughts: intentional ones that are created by the mind (this is the voice you use to talk to yourself internally) and unintentional thoughts that just seem to bubble up without any effort? For ease of reference I will call the first type Intentional Thoughts and the second type Free Thoughts.

This practice focuses on noticing the differences between Intentional Thoughts and Free Thoughts so that it becomes easier to navigate the sea of data that arises within mind. This in turn supports the skill of being intentional in actions and behaviour.


You are not your Free Thoughts.

Some Free Thoughts can be crazy, mean-spirited, weird and wacky. Do not take them too seriously. Although sometimes they might be useful, often it is best to laugh at their nonsense, letting them fade away.

The trick here is not to cling to Free Thoughts, or to act on them without thinking things through.


Set a timer for five, ten or fifteen minutes.

Begin by finding a comfortable posture and by bringing your attention to the breath. Take a few moments to let yourself arrive and allow the breath to draw you gently into internal awareness. Allow the gaze to soften, the eyes to close.

  1. Start by repeating an Intentional Thought three times. Your thought could be:

    I am thinking this thought.

    I am thinking this thought.

    I am thinking this thought.

  2. Now stop and wait.

  3. What happens next?

  4. If you wait long enough, another thought will arise, but this time it will not have been inserted intentionally in the mind, it will simply have bubbled up from somewhere internally. What was the thought?

  5. Let’s try that again:

    I am thinking this thought.

    I am thinking this thought.

    I am thinking this thought.

  6. Now stop.

  7. What happened this time? If a thought bubbled up, what was it?

  8. Repeat the practice focusing on any subtle differences that you notice between Intentional Thoughts and Free Thoughts until the timer sounds.

  9. Return to wakefulness in your own way.

Record your experience in your Mindfulness Journal noting the differences you sensed between Intentional Thoughts and Free Thoughts.

If practising with others, take turns sharing your discoveries.

This practice is an extract from 100 Mindfulness Meditations: The Ultimate Collection of Inspiring Daily Practices by Neil Seligman published by Conscious House and available on Amazon priced £12.99.

10 Mindfulness Meditations is an album of audio meditations to accompany the book and is now available on iTunes priced £7.99.

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