This meditation will help you realize the difference between the conceptual or thinking mind and the perceiving mind. The conceptual mind is the part of the mind that distracts us and tries to hijack our meditation practice.
The perceiving mind is the primary part of the mind that we use and develop in mindfulness and meditation. It keeps us in the here and now. You may already be familiar with the experience of having distractions come out of nowhere as soon as you sit down to meditate.
I use the metaphor of a thief in the shadows to understand this phenomenon and become more aware of it in order to strengthen my mindfulness.
Begin by sitting in a comfortable upright position and taking three deep breaths to gently bring yourself into the present. When you feel relaxed, begin breathing naturally and observe the inflow and outflow of your breath. For this meditation, it helps to use visualization to keep yourself centred. Imagine a light in front of you, it could be the flame of a candle or just a glowing light.
This light is your awareness and it keeps the shadows at bay. Your job in this meditation is to keep this light glowing brightly, to keep your awareness strong in the face of distracting thoughts. Now, in the shadow, there lurks a thief that is a part of your conceptual mind or maybe even your unconscious mind. Y
ou can visualize this thief in any way that you like. I like to think of it as a person in a black cloak and black moustache sneaking around in the shadows. When you least expect it, the thief will try to come into the light and obscure it with distracting thoughts. Your job is to remain vigilant and always on the look out for this thief. You must keep your light of awareness strong so that when he or she does emerge from the shadows, you can catch the thief and claim victory. This is a very important aspect of meditation.
You should celebrate when you catch the thief because as soon as you do, it will not only force the thief to go back into the shadows, it will empower you to create a habit of spotting the thief whenever he or she tries to steal your mindfulness.
So as you focus on the inflow and outflow of the breath, keep a vigilant look out for this thief. Try doing this for five or ten minutes daily. It is a great and effective way to develop your mindfulness.