"I often encounter people in and out of my office who seem to be lost in thought. I sometimes ask them what they are thinking about. They are usually startled by the question. They look at me blankly and are often surprised to hear themselves admit with embarrassment that they don't know or can't say. Or they describe one small, fleeting fragment of disconnected thought. The "normal" human state of mind is constant, incessant thinking--an enigmatically linked stream of consciousness, sensations, memories, feelings, desires fears and chatter. And at the center of the narrative, the star of the show is always--ME!
This is why the first leg of the journey requires courage. To become familiar with the chaotic, egotistical, and often nonsensical narrative of our own mind stream is disconcerting and painful. To discover directly that we are literally "lost in thought" can be frightening. But this is where we are and where we must begin.
It's consoling to remember that everyone is neurotic, each one of us. The "normal" mind suffers from a complex of conflicting desires and aversions. The best we can do is become aware of our neuroses, to becomes wiser in our thinking and our conduct of life. In my experience, meditation is the most direct and efficient method for developing self awareness. Self awareness is not a steady state because experience is not a steady state. Through the practice of meditation, we can learn to watch our ever-fluctuating mental processes from a more detached, aerial perspective. Without necessarily understanding ourselves in some intellectual way, we can directly discover how the mind works. The mind has its causes and effects, its motivations and intentions, and its awareness and evaluation of their possible consequences."
--from "Vinegar Into Honey: Seven Steps to Understanding and Transforming Anger, Aggression and Violence" by Ron Leifer, M.D., published by Snow Lion Publications