Too many thoughts to meditate? Think about this…

Penny for them?

If I had a penny for each one of my thoughts I’d probably be able to buy a sizeable island in the South Pacific, where I could spend my days arguing with myself in peace.  You’re never alone when you have a noisy brain; there’s always a voice inside waiting to start a fight, file a complaint or present a petition of one thousand and one reasons why it’s perfectly justifiable to eat the whole packet of biscuits.

Yet despite my noisy brain, I’m a big fan of meditation.  When people tell me they can’t meditate because they can’t stop thinking, I rub my hands with glee and tell them to pull up a chair, because I’ve got some news for them: thoughts don’t have to disappear during meditation.

Getting your brain to stop thinking would be like asking your lungs to stop breathing, it’s not happening.  Some world champion snorkelers can probably hold their breath for a really long time, and likewise some very dedicated monks may have been able to stop their thoughts for extended periods, but for normal people living everyday lives, asking the brain to stop thinking is hard..

The purpose of meditation isn’t to stop thoughts, it’s to witness them, and to eventually be able to see thoughts for what they are: a product of the organ that is the brain, in much the same way that farts are a product of the intestines.  You wouldn’t label yourself a terrible person for letting off a smelly one after a spicy curry, so try not to judge your thoughts too harshly either.  Thoughts happen; they come and go like buses, so there’s no need to get attached to them.

Spend enough time witnessing your thoughts and you may begin to find them quite entertaining.  After a while of noticing, your thoughts may start to surprise you: they may come a little slower, feel a little lighter, and sometimes even give you a hug.

How about an example?

I have a cup of warm water with a slice of lemon every morning, it aids the gut apparently.  One morning last week I went about the usual routine: I poured the water, squeezed the lemon, dropped in a slice and pottered around making the kids school lunches.  When I judged it cooled enough I picked up my cup, took a sip, then promptly spat it back out again – turns out cold lemon water doesn’t have quite the same appeal as warm.  Yup, I’d forgotten to boil the kettle!  My reaction?  Hmmm, interesting, that’s a new one.  I put more water in the kettle and repeated, this time remembering to heat the water first. 

My reaction now, and my reaction a few years ago (when meditation was something other people did and I’d like to try one day) are pretty different.  Then I would likely have berated myself for an idiot, felt embarrassed by my own lack of focus, wondered how so many women in the world manage to keep their shit together and I can’t even remember to boil a kettle.  Harsh right?  And I was, at least to myself. But this time it was quicky filed under the folder of ‘amusing anecdotes’ and I went about my day, no mountains or molehills in sight.

Meditation provides a quiet transformation, one that happens so slowly it almost sneaks up on you, until the day you drop a bottle of milk on the kitchen floor and instead of lamenting the injustices of slippery milk bottles and wondering, “why me?” chuntering a litany of all the ways this sucks as you wonder how long it’s going to take to clean it up, you just grab some paper towels and get on with it; simple.

So the next time you try meditation and a thought passes by, just give it a mental wave and remember, there’ll be another one along in a minute.

The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting them control you

I’d like to give this one a go, but I have a tendency to nod off on occasions during meditation, so probably best saved for when I’m more practiced in staying restfully alert,

Photo by Admiral General M. on

Have you ever tried meditation? If you have, how did you get on with it? If you practice meditation regularly what benefits do you find it gives you?

Thanks for joining me. If you haven’t guessed from my previous posts, I love to write about meditation. When I set off on a path to combat my overthinking and negative thoughts a few years back, I never dreamed the answer would lie in practices that border on spiritual, but the more I leave my head and tune into my heart and body, the better things seem to get. Funny how things work out.

3 thoughts on “Too many thoughts to meditate? Think about this…

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