You’d love to meditate. To sit with mindfulness in stillness.
To experience the benefits you’ve heard meditation can bring: stress / anxiety relief, lowering high blood pressure, better sleep, improving immunity, improving brain function, bringing greater clarity of mind, improving mood.
But you’ve got one problem: your mind won’t blinkin’ shut up!
My yoga students often ask me about meditation and say they’ve tried to meditate but they just can’t do it. They find it so difficult because their pesky, noisy mind jumps around from here to there and gets even louder as soon as they try to sit quietly and clear their mind.
And I love to reveal to them: you don’t have to have a quiet mind to meditate!
The truth about your mind
The good news is (or not, depending on your perspective!): your mind isn’t going to shut up!
OK, so that might sound like mixed news 😉 However, I’ve found, once you realize this and really let it sink in, it’s quite liberating.
Meditation isn’t about silencing your mind. Your mind wants to jump around, to be active – it’s excellent at planning, remembering, and creating to do lists. This won’t stop just because you sit cross-legged on the floor!
Learning to meditate is a process of learning to watch your mind doing its thing. And to find peace with this.
When you watch your mind, ask yourself the question: who’s doing the watching? Your mind can’t watch itself can it?
No, when you watch your thoughts you’ve (re)connected with a silent observer within yourself: a different level of awareness or consciousness, call it what you will.
And when you realize that you can watch your mind and the thoughts, you may realize that you are not your mind.
Harness the power of your mind
Your mind is a tool to help you successfully navigate daily life and a great tool to plan, but a tool which can get a bit wayward when it goes off into judging, resisting, worrying about the past, being anxious about the future, attaching to how things “should” be…
With practice, you can begin to take control of this powerful tool – you can choose to be the silent observer of your thoughts: to mentally stand back and watch them rather than being pulled into the whirlpool as the thoughts whiz around (exhausting you in the process!). You can learn to choose which thoughts to follow. You can learn to choose which thoughts to create.
And it is a practice. This ability to choose to step back from your thoughts and watch them, doesn’t come straight away.
But I promise you, if you stick with it, the moments of stillness you’ll experience before your mind jumps off again will become longer and deeper.
Try this : Paying Attention Mindfulness Meditation
- Sit comfortably – cross-legged on the floor, or on a chair. Sit with your spine tall and your body relaxed. Close your eyes.
- Take a few deep breaths – releasing any residual physical tension on the out-breath.
- Let yourself begin to notice the thoughts which are coming up.
- What thoughts are present? Is your mind making judgements? Is it telling you to stop doing this and go and do something else instead? Is it remembering something which happened earlier in the week? Is it thinking about what you need to do next?
- If you find yourself lost in a stream of thoughts don’t worry! As soon as you notice this, bring your awareness back into the here and now and begin watching the thoughts again.
- Next, begin to label your thoughts. E.g. Planning, Remembering, Worrying, Judging… or just label them “thinking” if you wish
- Sit for a few minutes and just watch and name the thoughts.
- Then when you’re ready, bring your awareness back onto your body and your breath. Take some deep breaths. Rub your hands together and cup them over your eyes and then slowly open your eyes into the darkness of your cupped hands.
Take a moment to reflect on your experience.
Was it easy? Frustrating? Interesting? Enlightening?
It’s worth repeating this exercise for at least 2 or 3 minutes each day (you can do it with your eyes open too!).
Practice makes peaceful
This simple technique will help you to connect with your ability to watch your mind and to stand back from it. To create the space so you’re no longer lost in your thoughts. To practise the ability to name the thoughts to enable you to realize what stories your mind tells you each and every day – you’ll begin to notice patterns I assure you!
And know that you can experience the benefits, joys, and transformations which regular meditation can bring without having to shut up your mind!
Instead focus on finding peace with your mind. A calm acceptance with a gentle wry smile at the games your mind plays. And know you are not your mind.
You are the still, wise observer within you.