As promised, here is the simple test you can try to see how well you control your thoughts:

First: Sit in an upright position on a couch or chair, feet flat on the floor, hands folded together in your lap. Be sure you try this at a time and in a place where you won’t be interrupted or distracted.

Second: Relax for a moment. Close your eyes. Take three relaxing breaths at your normal breathing rate. All breathing throughout the test should be at your normal rate. Do not force your breathing.

Third: After the three relaxing breaths, start counting your inward breaths and outward breaths. Example: breathe in, ONE; breathe out, TWO; breathe in, THREE … and so on until you get to TEN. If other thoughts distract you and interrupt your counting, START OVER at ONE.

The goal is to get to the tenth count without having other thoughts interrupt your concentration. This looks easier than it sounds. My guess is that less than 5% of the people who try this for the first time will get to ten without starting over, probably many times. Please feel free to comment on how the test went for you and ask questions. I will be glad to answer your questions and I’m curious to see how many people try it and how many succeed the first time.

For those of you who want to try meditation, this test can be used as a meditation technique. The counting will help you track your progress and give you a method of seeing how well you are doing. But don’t look on this as a contest of some sort. Depending on a person’s state of mind, even an experienced meditator might have trouble getting to TEN even once during a 20 minute meditation, on a given day. When you do get to TEN, congratulate yourself and start over again. Keep meditating for ten minutes.

The real importance of meditation, regardless of technique, is that, no matter how many times you have to start over, you simply begin again. You should not get frustrated with yourself. You should simply think, ‘ Oh, I got distracted. I’m not counting. OK. I’ll start again.’ The process is more important than the score. The process, realizing you are not counting, is the only important part. It is when you once again become aware of what your mind is doing and you gently and lovingly return its focus to counting your breaths. One meditation teacher said it was like learning to bake bread. You do it over and over again until you know how to do it so well that it becomes second nature.

I sincerely hope you enjoy this experiment. Let me know how it goes!