Can't Meditate? Stop Trying!
Updated: Jul 2
Of course you can meditate! (You do something like it all the time.) Trying gets In the way.
I write this “Pandemic Musings” blog to help people Identify their inner resources for coping with anxiety. Everyone says meditation reduces stress, depression and anxiety. I’m suggesting you naturally do a form of meditation without calling it that!...
So, think of a time, when you were so focused on something you lost track of time. It could have been following a complicated recipe, gluing a broken dish, playing a video game, or writing a thoughtful email. Worries vanish, right? You were totally in the present moment, not thinking about anything else.
You were purely aware of what you were doing, and it was something close meditating! It may have not been “formal” meditation with instructions like these:
- Find a quiet space.
- Sit up straight to make it easier to breathe.
- Focus your attention on your breath or a prayer word/mantra.
- When a thought emerges, don’t follow the train of thought; note that you are thinking (i.e. label it "thinking") and go back to focusing on your breath/prayer word.
When I give instructions like these in a group, someone usually protests, “I can’t stop my thoughts!” Stopping thinking is not the goal of mindfulness meditation. Being aware of your thoughts so you can choose whether to pursue them is what we practice in meditation.
So, if you can’t stop your thinking, don’t try! You’ll find thinking about stopping your thoughts gets in the way.
The New York Times last Sunday had a marvelous article entitled “Free Your Mind With Meditation.” It quotes...
Chris Toulson, a 35-year-old meditation specialist who runs the
@meditation_and_mindfulness Instagram account.... “It’s not so much emptying
the mind, because that is impossible,”…. “Our brain is not wired to be empty. We can’t
control what comes into our heads. What we can control is how we deal with it.”
Mr. Toulson, who lives outside London, suggests treating your thoughts and emotions
as clouds: When you’re meditating, imagine you’re looking up at the sky. Sometimes,
clouds are bright, fluffy. Sometimes, they’re dark. Either way, you’re below, observing
them, feeling the grass beneath your fingers and watching the world go by.
Want to go even deeper? Join Mooji in a 5 minute chant. It’s hard to think while you’re chanting, and his voice is very calming: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2Q_YCkK0mk
Trust the part of you that wants peace of mind. Why else would you be reading this? Trust the part of you that has the power to still your mind!