Watching the Mind


The ‘watching the mind’ exercise is a simple exercise of observing, or noticing. It takes about a minute to do it, and yet practicing the exercise has the potential to reveal calmness, and give us some peace each time we do it.

Before we start, here’s a little overview of how the exercise is structured. All we need to do is gently sit back in a comfortable chair, and close our eyes, and watch, and then count the thoughts that we observe. Whenever we notice a thought, we number each one in numerical order.

All you will be doing is watching and noticing and observing, and then counting. Throughout the exercise imagine you’re sitting outside in the most comfortable chair on a still summer’s evening, with nothing to do but gently watch the night sky with an element of fascination.

We’ll do this exercise with our eyes closed for about a minute – it doesn’t have to be exactly one minute – roughly a minute is perfectly fine.

So, if you’d like to get comfortable in a chair, then gently close your eyes and imagine you’re watching the night sky. Begin observing and noticing, and watching. Then start counting the thoughts as you become aware of them.


How many thoughts did you count? 3 or 4, or maybe 20? It really doesn’t matter how many we count. Some times we can be aware of many thoughts, other times there are few. The important thing is that you’ve observed and watched and noticed, and you were able to assign a number to each thought. By doing that, you’ve created space between you and the thoughts, and you’ve been able to allow them to pass.

And that which was observing is actually who we are. We’re not our thoughts. Thoughts have a beginning and an end, and they move. They keep passing through. Whereas, that which was observing is immovable and endless. You were able to observe the thoughts from that grounded still space.  

Our mind has a tendency to identify with thoughts, and become engaged in internal chatter or monologue that is associated with the content of those thoughts. Sometimes we can be overpowered with the thinking that is associated with the content of those thoughts. But by assigning a number to each thought as you’ve done in this exercise we diminish the intensity of the energy associated with those thoughts. By numbering a thought, we have de-personalized it. This de-personalization renders the content of the thought powerless over us. It becomes meaningless.

Moving forward from here, if you find that things are speeding up for you in your daily activities, or you are caught up in some frustration, create the opportunity to sit down, just for a minute or so, close your eyes and watch and notice, and count the thoughts. You may find that by doing this exercise you will create space for yourself, and you will naturally slow down. This exercise can provide an opportunity to refine our focus, and have more clarity.

There’ s benefit in getting into a routine of doing this exercise. For example, before you leave home for work, sit down for a minute or so, close your eyes and count your thoughts. Have a go at establishing a routine and see what happens to your experience of life.