If you are new to the world of meditation – or even if you’ve practiced it for years – it is a common fear that you aren’t “doing it right.”
Well take comfort: there is no “wrong” way to meditate. Really! Many people believe that if they aren’t seated a certain way, with a certain candle, the perfect mantra, and most importantly, a mind as clean as a blank canvas, that they are somehow not really, truly meditating.
Nothing could be further from the truth. First, consider this: the National Science Foundation has estimated that the human mind processes anywhere from 12,000 to 50,000 thoughts per day. (1)
Think about that for a moment (and know this could be thought number 3,000 so far in your day). Even on a slow day, your brain is churning with more than 10,000 thoughts – and is a conservative estimate. Of these thousands of thoughts, several thousand consist of choices.
Most of the choices you make are not even in your conscious level of awareness. Nevertheless, your brain is hard at work deciding for you, every second – from whether to scratch your nose with your hand or reach for a tissue, whether to glance outside the window or open a new web browser tab. In other words, a ton of choices, and a ton of decisions.
Knowing this, can you honestly expect yourself to sit still for a meditation session and not have thoughts come flying through like a butterfly migration? It’s part and parcel of being a human being!
This doesn’t mean you can’t calm it down and let the thoughts go – gently and lovingly, without chastising yourself.
During your meditation session, expecting yourself to completely shut out every thought is just a bar that is set too high. The Buddhists have a term for how our minds work, and it’s called Monkey Mind. If even the Buddhists struggle with this, how can we not?
Monkey Mind is the description for the “persistent churn of thoughts” we have. (2) The founder of Bikram Yoga even said “The human mind is like a drunken monkey…that’s been stung by a bee.” Pretty spot-on!
So now that you know that you should give yourself a break for your struggles to keep your mind clear during meditation, what now? Is there any hope for a calmer, clearer state of mind while meditating? There certainly is!
Here are some excellent ways to calm down and tame your monkey mind when you want to get the most out of your meditation session:
- Expect distractions. You will be distracted, and thoughts will intrude. There is no getting around this, so be prepared for it.
- Do not mentally scold yourself when thoughts about your upcoming business meeting or that embarrassing gaffe you made recently come bumbling into your consciousness.
- When the distracting thoughts appear: allow yourself to notice them, without judgment. Look at the thought(s) objectively, as if you are an observer.
- You can take the thought, and imagine it as a leaf floating and moving down a stream. Just see it, and watch it go. You are not forcing it out – don’t try to swish the water and shoo it away – simply notice it moving away.
- Another visualization technique is to see your distracting thoughts as clouds – simply passing by.
- As you watch these thoughts drift by, gently – very gently – bring your attention back to your breathing.
- When you put your attention on your breathing, it helps to focus on specifics: how does the air feel coming into your nostrils? Is it cool? Warm? Same thing for your exhalation. Note how it feels.
- Remember: if you try to fight with and wrestle with the distracting thoughts, they will only become stronger. If you calmly, coolly observe them and detach, they drift away without a fight.
- See the distracting thoughts as your friend; they are helping you to cultivate mindfulness – which is one of the major goals of any meditation practice in the first place.
Now that you have some distraction-busting tips and tools to use in your meditation experience, take some time today to put them to practice. The most important thing to remember is that having unwelcome thoughts interrupt you, your Monkey Mind if you will, is perfectly normal. You are not meditating “wrong” – in fact there is no such thing. That in itself should help you to chill out and get the most out of your meditation experience!
Raw Michelle is a natural health blogger and researcher, sharing her passions with others, using the Internet as her medium. She discusses topics in a straight forward way in hopes to help people from all walks of life achieve optimal health and well-being. SUBSCRIBE here to get more from Raw Michelle!