The biggest challenge for meditators is the racing mind. New and seasoned meditators share the same "challenge" with their own mind. But, meditation is not to be looked at as a feat to overcome. It's a life practice. Becoming aware of your thoughts, observing them, allowing them, is part of the practice itself. Meditation is about creating awareness. So, don't let your mind deter your meditation practice. Instead, let your mind become your practice. Your thoughts can teach you a lot. Here’s some advice on how to address the monkey in your mind.
You're in the present moment when you notice you're thinking. That's Great!
Pema Chodron was one of my first and favorite meditation teachers. She suggests acknowledging your racing mind by saying "thinking”. Sometimes we can think for long stretches before we realize we’re not focusing on our breath. The beauty of meditation is that it can teach us to be present in any moment. When you realize your thoughts and say “thinking” be happy because you are in the moment right then. We can use this technique as we do anything outside of meditating to be more present.
Remember that meditation is a gentle practice.
She suggests paying attention to how you feel when you say “thinking”. Are you frustrated and annoyed with yourself? Do you feel defeated? Remember, that meditation is practice and part of it is to learn to become more patient, loving, and compassionate with ourselves! Use your monkey mind as a way to achieve inner kindness.
Meditation is about creating awareness.
Becoming aware of your thoughts can help you learn about their nature. Remember, energy follows thought. Notice if your mind tends to follow a negative or positive pattern. Does a certain person or relationship occupy too much time in your mind? Are you fixated on something that disrupts your own happiness or contentment? Are you being too hard on yourself? Thoughts are invisible. They aren’t real in a physical sense. Like stress, negative thought patterns can accumulate and eventually cause imbalance. Your thoughts then provide an opportunity to learn from that thought pattern. You have the power to transform your thoughts into something worth thinking about. Forgiveness, letting go, self love, etc.. These are the things that heal us and help us improve.
Lighten up! Don't take your thoughts or yourself for that matter too too seriously.
Laughing at the randomness or simplicity of your thoughts helps to keep things light. Just as you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself, you shouldn’t take yourself so seriously.
One time I was giving a meditation instruction to a group that was running the Chicago marathon (at Lively in Oak Park). The point was to help remove race time jitters. As we settled into the meditation one of the gals fell asleep. This is pretty typical in a group setting. But, this gal was sawing some serious logs! Everyone was trying so hard to remain focused. When I told everyone how well they were doing staying focused, I busted out laughing and the room broke out in a rumpus. In the end, the runners didn't need to relax as much as they needed a good laugh.
You're not the only one who has trouble taming the monkey.
This is a challenge for everyone. We need to meditate because we think too much. The more we practice, we create a muscle memory that helps us get into the zone more quickly. But, even then you may have a day where the effort was hopeless. Remember that it wasn’t. Any time you give yourself time to sit still, it’s worth something. Whether it’s 1 minute or 60, the time is not wasted. If you’re particularly tense or upset it’s helpful to stretch or do some yoga. Or stop and take a few more deep breaths. With your exhale, open your mouth wide to let go of these heavy thoughts. Or maybe you need to write some things down to clear your mind a little. Either way, it’s all good.
There may be some other things going on. There's still hope.
It’s true that people with ADD may have a more difficult time quieting the mind. In this case, focusing on something other then your breath could be helpful. Using your senses as the object of meditation can be helpful in this case. There could also be imbalances in your energy that are making it more difficult to quiet your mind. Obsessive and pensive thought patterns could be a sign of a spleen weakness. In this instance, acupuncture and dietary changes could be helpful.
The most important thing to remember is that meditation is called a practice for a reason. We’re supposed to learn as we go. Our thoughts are a part of the learning experience. So, B easy on yourself.
If you have any thoughts or suggestions about taming the mind, I’d love to hear them!