There are many misconceptions about meditation. One is that you can’t meditation because your mind wanders. Some people believe you should be able to automatically and perfectly silence that nonstop, chattering, mostly negative inner voice that’s always talking to you. I certainly did and it’s why I took more quickly to mindful movement Qigong than sitting meditation when I first began my mindfulness practice.
But here’s the thing — People who have been practicing meditation their whole lives will tell you that it’s natural for the mind to wander and that’s part of the practice. There is no judgment to be made here. If your mind wanders while meditating, take notice of your thoughts and emotions. Don’t judge them. Recognize them but no need to feed them any additional energy.
Imagine That You Are an Objective Viewer
You don’t need to have an opinion of the thoughts that come up. Just let your thoughts be present. If your mind wanders from a clear state to the fact that you have to pay a big bill tomorrow and you’re a little short financially, just look at that thought. Don’t take an opinion. Just look at it as an neutral observer. This allows you to quickly return to a carefree mental state. That’s not the case if you judge yourself harshly for your mind wandering.
Meditating with a Mantra Can Help Calm the Mind
A mantra is a word or phrase repeated during meditation. You can pick a word or phrase that resonates with you or represents a quality you want to cultivate. This gives your mind something to do. Beginners will speak a mantra either silently to themselves or out loud. Over time you develop the ability to use this anchoring point silently in your mind.
It can help you reduce the number of times your mind wanders away. The phrase or word you repeat is intended to help you keep your attention on your meditative state of mind.
Counting Each Breath Can Help Calm the Mind Too
Counting each breath can also direct your attention away from outside thoughts. You can count on each inhale or exhale. While you count the inhale and the exhale, pay attention to the sensations of the breathing. When the mind settles, you can cease counting.
Breathing exercises and mantras might help you let go of the wandering mind. Remember that it is normal for your mind to drift off while meditating. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. Observe your thoughts objectively without engaging with them and allow yourself to enter the meditative state.
A mindfulness practice is a rich and deep contemplative practice but there are many different ways to engage in it. For more ideas on how you can engage in a mindfulness practice either through meditation or beyond, check out my free guide 23 Ways to Integrate Mindfulness into Your Life.