If we keep our house spotlessly clean, pests will find no food source and cannot make a home there. Whenever we are bothered by thoughts – either in meditation or any other time – the most effective remedy is to make our minds spotlessly pure and sparkling clean by blocking out, flushing away or sweeping aside all thoughts.

For temporary relief from unwanted thoughts, we don’t even need to meditate, we just need distraction – we might engage in strenuous physical activity, sing, read, listen to music, watch a thrilling sports game or phone an engaging friend. Yet all we are accomplishing here, is to swap one costume of thoughts for another.

To free the mind of thoughts completely, we must surgically remove any thoughts that are already inside our mind, and ban any new thoughts from entering.

To treat thoughts already inside the mind, we direct all our attention and channel our focus to a single point of concentration – our chosen object, mantra, music or creative visualisation exercise. Starved of attention, our unwanted thoughts fade and disappear.

To completely clear and then to keep the mind clear, to disallow new thoughts, requires constant vigilance, which cannot be achieved by distraction alone. Here the patient, practised discipline of meditation is indispensable. Our mind is so used to constant activity, constant distraction, that for it to be occupied with only one thought – let alone no thoughts – feels strange at first, disconcerting, even alien and somewhat alarming.

Like a child first entering the water, or a newborn foal on wobbly legs, the mind needs time to adapt to the unfamiliar milieu of thoughtless silence.

To control and detach from thoughts, we must first enrol our mind in the training school to master the art of accepting, welcoming and embracing inner silence.