On Dispassion

Watch your thoughts as you watch the street traffic. People come and go: you register without response.

— Nisargadatta

If your day involves walking on city streets or taking the subway, you already know how to detach. In meditation we cultivate a similar detachment or dispassion from our own thoughts.

When you sit to meditate, treat your thoughts the way you treat strangers on the subway—with detachment and dispassion.

When thoughts surface, maintain a stance of indifference, disinterest, towards them. Keep your awareness on the breath, the mantra, or whatever you are using to focus your attention.

As Sally Kempton once said, “Thoughts will surface but they won’t take you out.”

Sri Aurobindo said essentially the same thing.

A quiet mind does not mean there will be no thoughts or mental movements at all, but that these will be on the surface, and you will feel your true being within, separate from them, observing but not carried away.
 – Sri Aurobindo

For lovers of wisdom traditions, Vedanta is the tradition that teaches us to cultivate dispassion towards everything that is not our truest Self.