“Concentrate all your thoughts on the task at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell
If you’ve tried mindfulness meditation, either following along with the short guided mindfulness meditation on The Changeability Podcast (episode 44), or you’re a regular meditator – you can’t help but be aware of the mind’s tendency to wander around during your meditation session.
You’re just settling into a few minutes of focusing on the here and now, you’re noticing your breath going in and out and suddenly you’re aware of thoughts crowding in about all sorts of things.
Maybe it’s something you should have done, or an upcoming meeting or event you’re organising. It might be you’re hungry and can’t stop thinking about your next meal.
Whatever the thoughts are, this is normal – if a little irritating sometimes!
Some people feel that if they can’t clear their mind and not think of anything then meditation is not for them, or they can’t do it.
But everyone can do it – it’s just how you define ‘doing it’.
It’s not about getting it right or wrong. It’s about practicing a way of thinking, of focusing your attention on something specific – like in our case we’ve been paying attention to our breath.
It’s about the practice – which is why ‘practice’ is such a great word in relation to meditation. Because it’s about the experience of doing it rather than getting to an end point or destination.
It’s about gently being aware or turning your focus onto your breathing, and re-turning your attention back to your breath and the here and now as other thoughts start coming into your mind.
The thoughts keep coming and gradually you get snatches of moments where they don’t – they may be incredibly fleeting on some days and other days, with practice the space between them gets longer.
But it takes practice and to be honest, some perseverance and commitment.
So don’t be surprised or hard on yourself if you find it challenging or think you’re failing in some way, this is part of the process. There is always the opportunity to re-commit and get back to it.
So to get back to mindfulness meditation and your wandering mind – there a few little techniques you can try out to help you turn your attention away from the thoughts and back to your breath. You can hear us chat more about these in episode 45 of The Changeability Podcast, but in the meantime here are a couple of ways of dealing with your wandering mind.
Notice you’re thinking these thoughts – you might even think ‘I’m having a thought’. Then find a way of letting it go.
One way of doing this is to visualize the thought as something. You might see it in a bubble that bursts, leaving the thought to evaporate and disappear.
Another technique some people like to use is to count your breaths, either in and out or just out. This helps you to bring the focus back to the breathing.
None of these stop the thoughts coming but can help you deal with them so they don’t become too distracting and take you away from the purpose of your mindfulness meditation – being in the here and now in a non-judgemental way.
On Episode 45 the Changeability Podcast you’ll find out:
- Some interesting things about Alexander Graham Bell
- Why mindfulness meditation is not about getting it right or wrong.
- What’s going on in Julian’s head as we delve into his mind!
- What’s been irritating Kathryn this week in her meditation time.
- It’s not about stopping the thoughts.
- 7 ways to help deal with distracting thoughts and wandering mind syndrome.
Links and resources mentioned in episode 45
- What is mindfulness and why do we need it – Episode 43
- Manage your Mind with Mindfulness Meditation – Episode 44
- The Library in your Mind – Episode 3
- What is Mind Management – Episode 6
- ‘Mindfulness – A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world‘ by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
- A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness Meditation – A short course
- With Breath in Mind – a Guided Meditation – a Brilliant Living® MP3
- Join the FB Changeability Group
What to do next
If you’d like help in getting going with mindfulness meditation – and a shortcut to help you stay on track, we have a couple of Brilliant Living® resources for you.
A short course where in 1 and a half hours from now you will be up and running and have a guided meditation to keep with Julian’s ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness Meditation‘ short course.
Or if you just want a super quick way to get going, download our guided meditation mp3 ‘With Breath in Mind’. Six 10-minute tracks to choose from.
Talk to us
If you have any ideas, comments or questions we’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org