The Meditation Train Challenge

By Desmond Yeoh SC

This game can be played during meditation or when chanting mantras or whenever we are doing anything mundane that does not require much thinking.

low angle photography of person standing on subway station

The basis of this game is to see the first thought that comes to our mind as the head of the train or the engine. The first thought will trigger another thought which we will refer to as the first carriage. The first carriage will then jump to another thought which is the second carriage and so on. To an average person who does not practice mindfulness, the “train of thoughts” can be very long indeed. It would be so long that one may not even be able to recall what the head of the train and the first few carriages were.

This is how we will play this game. Take three deep breaths and then pay attention to your natural, unforced, breathing. Just watch the breath without trying to control it in any manner. If it is fast, we just let it be. If it is slow, we also let it be.

If you are doing mantras, focus on the mantras instead.

After taking the deep breaths, our mind will initially be empty of thoughts for a short moment. Now patiently wait for the train to appear. Sooner or later, something would trigger some memory to bring about the head of the train. If we see the train appear, we just watch it and note what triggered it. The trigger may be a sound or a fleeting mental image.

We may not be mindful when the train appears and the train may have led to two or three carriages before we become mindful of them. That is fine. Just note the latest carriage and we try to work our way back by recollecting our thoughts back to the head of the train and if possible, the event that triggered the train. If we are able to do this, it would mean that we managed to become mindful at an early stage of the thought process.

We may also note that some of the carriages may be emotionally charged, that is, they contain thoughts that bring about some strong positive or negative feelings. Note this too. This helps us to see how the mind and emotions are inter-dependent.

After working our way back to the head of the train or as far back as up the carriages as we possibly can, we then let the train go and again wait for the next train to appear. Play this game for about 20 minutes each time or for any period that you are comfortable with. Just remember to enjoy the game.

After playing this game a few times, answer these quizzes:

  • Do we truly have control over our thoughts?
  • Do we have “free-will” over our thoughts?
  • Do we control over our emotions? What cause the emotions to arise, our choice or the carriages of the train?
  • Is there a ‘Self’ controlling our thoughts and emotions?
%d bloggers like this: