Tell me if this sounds familiar. You sit down to meditate. You focus on your breathing and close your eyes. After what seems like ages, but is really only a few moments, you’re frustrated. You can’t get your thoughts to stop flying through your head. You don’t know how to ignore them or turn them off. So you give up and decide meditating isn’t for you.
If that sounds at all familiar, I’m here to tell you that you can meditate and the thoughts swinging through your mind like a monkey swings from branch to branch aren’t a problem.
Keep at It
First, even though it seems like it’s been forever, you need to keep with it a bit longer. If necessary, set a timer. Start with five minutes and then add one minute every week. The thoughts will race – that is OK! It’s not reasonable to expect your brain to achieve “zen” without having ever experienced it in just a short time. Emptying your mind take practice.
In fact, just like yoga is considered a yoga practice, meditation is considered a practice. No matter how many years anyone has been meditating, there is no “expert.” It is an ever evolving practice.
Tame the Monkey
During the time when thoughts are racing through your head, resist the urge to open your eyes, write notes, or stop focusing on your breathing. Instead, watch your thoughts swing by and land in a nice, neat pile for you to address after you’re done practicing for the moment. Over time, the swinging monkey thoughts will line up and wait for you without you having to tell them to do so.
Use the Monkey
Once you’ve started to see the monkey thoughts line up and wait for you to be ready for them, you can actually begin to use your meditation practice to work through challenges or solve problems. As the thoughts form, you can use them to create a positive intention and watch the solutions appear. This will take time and you’ll need to have built up to meditating for at least 20 minutes to truly experience this.
What about a Mantra
Great question! Mantras are powerful. For some people, using a repetitive tone such as “om” is helpful. For others this isn’t engaging enough and does little to tame the thought monkeys. If that sounds like you, don’t worry. I’ve got a solution.
Before you sit down to practice meditating, set an intention. Your intention should be positive and phrased like it is already achieved. For example, if you’re feeling anxious or stressed the intention could be something like “I am at peace.” As you focus on your breath, repeat your intention phrase as if it’s a mantra. For example, inhale: “I am…” and exhale: “at peace…” And repeat until your timer calls you back.
Timers? They’re Not Calming
True, if it goes off with a horrible beeping, buzzing or loud radio. However, with smart phone technology, it’s quite easy to set your timer to sound with more peaceful tones. In some cases, you can even get one that starts quietly and gets louder which will ease you back into reality from your meditative state.