You gather your meditation cushion and a couple of blankets, ready to begin a guided meditation. You’re in a quiet room, or maybe even outside in the garden, seemingly free from unwanted distractions. You light some incense, close your eyes and begin listening to a calming voice, ready to be led into deep relaxation and conscious awareness.
Then, it happens: the grocery item you forgot! The text you wanted to send to a friend! What will you eat as a sack after meditating? What was that noise; is your youngest child awake from his nap already?
…We have all been here. Maintaining a meditation practice can be daunting, and many people give up, subscribing to the negative thought pattern that they are just “not good at it.”
Managing Meditation Thoughts
Thoughts, distractions, and the endless whims of the “monkey mind” will most certainly arise during meditation and yoga practice, no matter who you are or where you are along your mindfulness journey. So, how do you manage these thoughts during meditation when they do arise?
First of all, remember: meditation is not the clearing of the mind. It is the observation of the mind.
Many beginners have this notion that to achieve a state of mediation and “succeed” at meditating, they must empty the mind completely, achieving stillness and equanimity without distraction. But this simply isn’t so– the thoughts that can and certainly will arise are simply a part of the journey. Your job is to recognize the distractions as they come, accept these thoughts without judgment, and bring your mind gently back to the present moment.
Once you relieve yourself of this undo pressure of having to “clear” your mind, you might be surprised at how enjoyable mediating becomes. You can open yourself to the myriad benefits of a regular practice– including better sleep, chronic pain relief, better focus at work, stress relief– and you might just find that the distracting thoughts pop up less often, and that you become more adept at regaining your concentration.
Try this free Soul Synch Meditation on YogaToday with Adi Amar
Prepare the Body
One way to help improve focus and decrease distraction during meditation is to prepare the body! Most meditations are seated, and before sitting still for a period of time it is helpful to to relax and open the body, especially the legs, low back and hip flexors. If you have time, do a yoga practice before meditating. If you don’t have as much time, pick one to three restorative poses and practice them for a minute each. Child’s pose, figure four, butterfly pose, or a seated or supine twist are all good options, but use what is best for your body. Or, try this Meditation Prep online class on YogaToday.
Meditating without any guidance can be difficult, particularly for beginners, which is why active, guided meditations are a beginner’s best friend.
If you find yourself struggling with unwanted thoughts during meditation, try an active meditation. Active meditations provide you with a “task”– a breathing exercise, counting, mudra, or mantra– so that concentration becomes easier.
Additionally, practicing these active meditations while guided along by a teacher can help you stay present. During a guided meditation, a teacher, whether in-person or via your computer, tablet, or app, delivers meditation instructions. This method will help you feel at ease and relax while also providing a framework to keep your distractions in check.
YogaToday offers many online guided meditations, and here are 3 of our favorites: the first two are free to try, and the third (along with many others) are available with YogaToday. They are very beginner friendly, yet applicable to practitioners of all levels.
1) De Stress Meditation: This 10 minute guided meditation uses mantra to bring stillness and quiet the mind, leaving you feeling less stressed and overwhelmed.
2) Soul Synch Meditation: This calming five- stage meditation uses breath, vibration, and mantra to strengthen your mind, body, soul connection.
3) Health + Happiness Meditation: Use a kundalini mantra to bring you a greater sense of happiness, peace of mind and overall health.
Start here, and find what works for you– everyone will respond to different types of meditations differently. Remember to be patient with yourself, and to practice regularly to reap the rewards!