The other day I was playing with my cats, simultaneously torturing them and delighting them with this flexible thin rod that had feathers and a bell at the end. I would run it along the ground, simulating a mouse, or just bob it up and down in front of their noses. These usually sedentary cats loved the entertaining movement. They’d chase after the bell and feathered end, or lie down and try to grab it with their paws as I dipped it in front of their nose.
I then realized that we humans also have a love affair with movement. But in our case it’s the feathers and bell that is attached to each thought — to each movement of the mind. That’s all that thought fundamentally is: movement of the mind. The subconscious gossip that runs just below our awareness is minor movement, recognizable thought is intermediate movement, and full blown emotions are major movement. But in essence, it’s all just movement.
This approach to thought is helpful, because it helps us relate to any thought or emotion that arises in meditation, and that we then label as “thinking,” as just the movement of the mind. Don’t do this (stay true to the label of “thinking”), but instead of saying “thinking” to whatever distracts you, you could say “movement.” So just like my cats, and so many other creatures that depend on movement for their very existence (if you can’t detect the movement of an animal, you can’t locate it and eat it), my ego depends on movement for its existence.
My ego, just like my cats, likes to be entertained — and even fed — by movement. This, of course, is why the absence of movement, or sitting meditation, can be so hard for the ego. When the movement of bells and feathers isn’t there, when thoughts and emotions aren’t moving about, life for the ego gets very boring. So to keep things moving, and to keep ego alive and entertained, ego keeps popping up thoughts. And I keep chasing after them . . . just like my cat. On some fundamental level, I’m not that different from my cat.