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How to meditate: "I can't stop thinking long enough to meditate"... and other lies.

Updated: 4 days ago

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Meditation and breathwork are part of my daily life and are woven into the services I offer via LORA Concepts. I know that many of you are meditation novices or perhaps just curious about how meditation could fit into your life.


So, today, I want to talk about a few of the things I once thought to be true about meditation that I later learned were wrong, in the event that you, too, have these misconceptions.

 

1 - "I would love to meditate but I can't stop thinking long enough to do it."

I used to think that I should only sit down to meditate when my mind was calm. "Okay sweet… I'm relaxed. Now I can finally meditate!"

However, waiting to be calm before attempting to meditate is like waiting to be fully fluent in a new language before signing up for a course to help you learn that language or making your house perfectly clean before enlisting the help of a cleaning service!


Calm ocean shoreline with text that says "Meditation is training for the mind and heart to become calm."

In other words, meditation is something we do TO calm down, not WHEN we calm down.

 

2 - "I'm one of those people who is not meant to meditate."

First, let me assure you that pretty much anyone can meditate. However, sometimes we assume we can't because it ends up being a little more difficult than we expected.

Does the scenario below sound familiar?

Person before trying meditation: "Pffft. I can totally meditate! It sounds so simple! Easy-peasy!"

Same person, 5 minutes into meditation: "What in the actual heck is going on?! What is wrong with me!? Why do I keep thinking????"

It's a bit unnerving!

I think most of us go through our lives believing that we could easily control our thoughts if we wanted to, but, when we actually sit down to meditate, we are bombarded by thoughts, despite our best efforts to not think. This can understandably make us wonder who is in charge: us or our thoughts.

If this sounds like you, you're actually on the right track.

Expecting to be able to control your thoughts the moment you start meditating is akin to being a couch potato your whole life then, one day, deciding to go to the gym and expecting to be able to bench 300 pounds right away.

There is a saying in the meditation community that captures this beautifully:

Ocean shore with text that says "Meditation is simple but not easy."

Meditation is indeed simple. It can be as simple as sitting down and paying attention to your breath, if you want… but don't confuse "simple" with "easy". The fact that we've all been thinking our whole lives - with little to no incentive to ever pause our thoughts - is one of the things that makes meditation challenging. Thinking is a well-ingrained habit.

I'm not telling you this to dissuade you from meditating. It's quite the opposite: I absolutely want you to try it. I created LORA Concepts in part because I have enjoyed tremendous benefits from meditation and want to share them with you. However, I want you to know that, when you do sit down to meditate, you will likely find it difficult. That's to be expected. This is normal. YOU are normal. Remember that you are not "failing" at meditation. Keep trying it. It gets easier with practice.

Remember, meditation is the training for the mind and heart to calm down. It is training. Not a silver bullet.

 

3 - "It's bad to have thoughts during meditation."

In the beginning, I think many of us have the wrong idea regarding what meditation is for and mistakenly believe that meditating is the same as "not thinking". I know I certainly did!

I said earlier that meditation is training to help the mind and heart calm down but let's get into a little more detail about that. While you can find many definitions out there…

Waves with text that says "The goal of meditation is to help us achieve better focus, more presence, and greater inner calm."

There's nothing in that definition that talks about eliminating thoughts!

That being said, reducing our thoughts is often a natural by-product of meditation. After all, if we are able to achieve better focus, that presumes our thoughts aren't jumping in at every opportunity to distract us. It's the same with being more present. When we're present, we're not consumed by thoughts of worry for the future or immersed in thoughts about the past. When we feel calm, it's in part because we aren't stuck in a hot, crowded elevator of annoying and unrelenting thoughts, all trying to talk to us at the same time.

Ocean shoreline with text that says "While controlling our thoughts may result from practicing meditation, it is not the primary objective."

When we don't understand what the purpose of something is, we end up with unrealistic expectations. If you previously went into meditation with the expectation that your thoughts would vanish immediately, you probably felt frustrated, discouraged, or confused.

However, now that you understand the real goal of meditation, consider how this might change your experience. Imagine going into meditation with the expectation that thoughts will creep in and that it's normal for this to happen to everyone!

That's a little more palatable, isn't it?!

 

4 - "There's only one way to meditate."

I think society will have most of us believe that meditation is the act of merely sitting quietly and "emptying our mind".

By this point in this newsletter, you may not be surprised to learn that this is not really true.

There are many types of meditation: Loving-kindness meditation, chakra meditation, breath awareness meditation, walking meditation, mantra meditation, body scan meditation, visualization meditation… and the list goes on.

Some types of meditation speak to some of us more than others. If you tried to meditate once (by sitting quietly and "emptying your mind", for instance) and came out of it feeling like you did not like meditation in general, don't give up. There are many (better) ways to meditate.

If you're new to meditation or have a particularly active mind (like most of us), it can help to try a meditation that is a little more involved, like a mantra, a visualization, or a more elaborate breathing practice. (I have given you instructions to one such meditation further down in this blog!)

When the meditation we choose is more involved, it's a bit more difficult for thoughts to show up.

However, make no mistake: thoughts are sneaky and tenacious. They will find a way in... like devious little raccoons who always manage to get into the trashcan, no matter how securely you might fasten it. (Those furry little ninjas...)

When that happens, it just means that your focus has drifted from the meditation, at least partially. This happens and is totally normal.

When you do find that your thoughts creep in, gently acknowledge them, then bring your attention fully back to the meditation and to your breath.

Even if your thoughts run wild for several minutes before you realize that you're thinking at all, it's okay. Don't get down on yourself. You're not failing at meditation.

In fact, even if you were to sit and meditate for several minutes and spend the entire time acknowledging the many thoughts that come up, it would be worth your time.

It is actually a very cool thing any time you notice yourself thinking during meditation!

Shoreline with text that says "Whenever you notice yourself thinking during meditation, it means you are building awareness of how and when your thoughts show up."

Over time, that knowledge will allow you to identify where your thoughts disrupt you outside of meditation, too, which can be an exceptionally powerful way to manage stress.

 

I have prepared simple instructions for a beautiful mindfulness meditation that is great for beginners and experienced meditators alike. Click the button below to download this two-page document.



Thank you for reading!


Stephanie



LORA Concepts Inc.

workplace engagement & well-being




p.s. The information, insight, and advice I share through my work is meant to exist alongside whatever else you may be doing to bolster your mental health, manage stress, or improve your well-being. Nothing I share is meant to replace directives or treatment plans provided by your doctor, therapist, or other healthcare professional.

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