Meditation Daily originally published this article. Read it here.
Meditation is all about quieting the mind, right? Anyone who has tried it knows that’s easier said than done. We’re here to tell you it’s completely normal to sit on the cushion and then have your mind wander. It’s no wonder: Our brains are built to run, to think, to problem solve. Even experienced meditators find that their mind just will not be quiet from time to time. If you’ve had any of the following thoughts during meditation, we feel you:
1. “Okay, breathe. Breathe. Wow, do I always breathe like that?”
Seriously, how distracting can breathing get?
2. “What’s that noise?”
It’s a murderer in my house. I know it.
3. “Grounded. Grounded. Ga-round-ed…”
And now I can feel a lump in my cushion.
4. “Okay, seriously. I’ve gotta do this.”
Seriously. This is good for you.
5. “I can’t forget to go to the grocery store.”
Why do all the to-do’s show up during meditation?
6. “I wonder what Meghan Markle’s wedding dress is going to look like.”
7. “When is that timer going to go off?”
I swear time slows down.
8. “Ooh, what’s that color? And what does it mean? Should I be seeing colors?”
I mean, you can.
9. “Burr, it’s cold in here.”
Your body temperature can drop during meditation, so dress accordingly!
10. “Gah! My nose itches!”
Well, depending on the type of meditation you’re doing, scratch it. Or don’t.
11. “Wow. This is pretty cool.”
I know, right?
12. “Is my sage going to burn the house down?”
Probably not. But you should make sure it’s in a non-flammable container before meditating, just to be sure.
13. “I really like this.”
And you’ll like it even more with practice.
14. “Am I doing this right?”
Unless you’re practicing a couple of specific, advanced modalities, there’s no wrong way to meditate.
15. “My foot is going to sleep.”
Yeah, they do that. Most modalities allow you to move around, so you’re comfortable. Next time, try sitting on a taller cushion that allows your knees to drop.
16. “The teacher’s voice is so soothing.”
Meditation teachers are trained on how to do that.
17. “Don’t fall asleep. Don’t fall asleep.”
Sleep sometimes happens during meditation. Although it’s not encouraged, look at it this way: if you’re so relaxed you fall into a light sleep, that might be what your body needed that day.
18. “I bet so-and-so would like this. They really need it.”
Don’t be judgy during meditation. It’s not Zen.
19. “This is great. I need this me time.”
Yes, you do.
20. “Wow! Are we done already? It feels like I just started.”
You’ll probably think this one after you’ve been practicing for a while, but it’s a great feeling!
How to clear your mind during meditation
We’re going to let you in on a little secret. It’s incredibly difficult to clear your mind during meditation. That’s why guided meditation is so popular — it gives you something to focus on during meditation. If you want to try meditating without a teacher, though, here are a few tips:
Musical rhythm adds an interesting element to your meditation practice. When your mind wanders, you can always tune into the song and notice how it changes and flows.
Tune into your breath
It sounds trite, but the breath is your best meditation tool. Don’t just notice that you’re breathing. Notice that the breath moves your body when you breathe. Count to three, then to five, and then to ten to lengthen the breath and give your mind something to do.
Set the space
Setting the space before meditation helps to give you the mental break between your meditation session and the rest of the day. Set the space by lighting a candle — in a heat-safe container — journaling before your practice, or thinking of an affirmation to use during meditation.
Use a mantra or affirmation
There are a number of traditional mantras and chants that may assist you in meditation. One widely known chant is Om Namah Shivaya, which means “I bow to the inner self.” If so inclined, recite this chant silently in your mind. You can also pick a secular affirmation like, “I am peaceful,” to repeat to yourself during meditation.
Make sure your meditation space is free of distractions. Turn your phone on “do not disturb” and make sure your computer is logged out of all your social media accounts if you’re using it for music.
Finally, don’t judge yourself during meditation. No person — and therefore no meditation — is perfect.
What thoughts run through your mind during meditation?