Although don't meditate enough, I keep trying. Yesterday I got an insight: that ruminative non-productive thought is both effortful and, well, non-productive.
The image that popped into mind as I was meditating was of the task of moving heavy bags full of sand from one room to another in a house. So say the kitchen needed a bag, and you had to move it from the bedroom, and then another two bags from the living room to the bathroom, and so forth throughout the day, without much purpose.
So many of my thoughts seem to be of that nature. You can work hard at thinking about your life but if it is just moving sandbags around, it is rather pointless, but also very tiring. Productive thought is simpler, without as much wasted effort, and also more productive in that it simplifies problems rather than complicating them.
I am all for thinking.
BUT trying and trying to think yourself into a paradigm that does not fit is barking up the wrong tree and can, I suppose, lead to what is called "rumination." I've wasted tons of time doing that.
Your bag image reminds me of my efforts to organize and weed through books and files. This is disturbing and I hope these efforts are less futile.
When meditating, don't hold onto thoughts. You have to let them pass like clouds
At the risk of overthinking the metaphor. Suppose you did have sandbags all over the house. And suppose that every time you moved from one room to another you took a bag, or two, with you and sometimes you just moved a few around in the "pointless" way you suggest. Well, that may not accomplish anything. But surely it's going to build strength. (I'm assuming these bags are moderately heavy.) People who ruminate might become stronger thinkers.
Or not. I get accused of rumination but I think it's contemplation. I think actual ruminators dull their minds, but that a lot of contemplation gets taken for rumination.
The muscles you get from moving those sandbags are not the right ones. To use another analogy, it would be like thinking that those with OCD at least never have dirty hands, leave the oven on, or lose their keys.
And, yes, rumination is different from meditation and contemplation. Rumination is circular and never leads out of the trap of thought. You know the difference because rumination makes the problem worse rather than better.
The OCD analogy is apt. Yes, at some point we squander our strength.
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