The basic idea
This technique is intended to make you more conscious of your vasanas in order to help them dissolve.
Set your phone (mobile) or digital watch so it beeps or vibrates unexpectedly at random times. Each time it goes off, notice what you had just been thinking. Optionally, you can write the thoughts down and examine the written list later to find patterns. The goal is to become conscious of repeated, compulsive patterns of thought.
I’ve never tried this. The idea just occurred to me.
More about it
Academic psychologists have done quite a bit of research on the mind’s tendency to daydream and wander. There are many dozens of papers on this subject in psychology journals dating back to the 1960s.
Some of this literature is interesting from a spiritual point of view because it is, I think, an attempt to study vasanas, mindfulness, monkey mind, and being lost in thought. The authors rarely use the kind of traditional spiritual terms that I wrote in the previous sentence, but this is a case of “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
I just skimmed through some of this research looking for information that might be of use to spiritual seekers, and I stumbled across something that gave me an idea for a sadhana that might be a big help for destroying vasanas.
The idea was provoked by a study done by Eric Klinger and W. Miles Cox in the 1980s called Dimensions of Thought Flow in Everyday Life.
In this study, people carried beepers that went off unexpectedly at various times during the day. When the subjects heard a beep, they noticed what they had just been thinking and wrote it down.
Here’s how you could use this idea as a sadhana. Set your phone (mobile) or digital watch to beep or vibrate at random times during the day. You may need to install an app to do this. Each time the alarm goes off, notice what you had just been thinking. You could go even further and write down the thoughts and examine the written record later to find patterns.
By doing this you would notice your vasanas and become conscious of them. Vasanas often escape our conscious notice. The beep would help you notice consciously. I don’t know if making vasanas conscious is a requirement for destroying them, but it certainly helps.
This sadhana reminds me of Gurdjieff’s “stop” exercise. I think he might have liked this idea. Beepers and phones (mobiles) had not yet been invented during his lifetime.
I like the idea of using phones to wake ourselves up since they usually seem to do the opposite by putting people in a hypnotic trance.
In case you’re interested in looking at the academic literature on daydreaming, I’ll pick a fairly recent paper almost at random and cite it here so you can follow the references:
Stawarczyk D, Majerus S, Van der Linden M, D’Argembeau A. Using the Daydreaming Frequency Scale to Investigate the Relationships between Mind-Wandering, Psychological Well-Being, and Present-Moment Awareness. Front Psychol. 2012;3:363. Published 2012 Sep 25. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00363
Added May 31, 2019
After I wrote this, my girlfriend told me about a company called Meaning to Pause which sells bracelets that vibrate at a fixed interval of 60 minutes or 90 minutes. You pick the interval when you buy the bracelet. In other words, you can buy a bracelet from them that vibrates every 60 minutes or you can buy one that vibrates every 90 minutes. You can’t adjust the interval after you receive the bracelet. I don’t think this product would work well for the technique described above because (1) the interval is fixed rather than random and (2) it’s too long. For the sadhana described above, I think you need a bracelet that vibrates at random intervals with an average length of a few minutes. Ideally, the average length of the interval should be adjustable.