Oh look it is raining. Oh no its raining. Are my car windows up? I think I left the windows open. Is it going to storm? I love storms. I am so tired. I need to sleep. I can’t sleep. I have to work in the morning. If I can’t sleep I can’t work well. I have a project due. I didn’t send that email…….and it goes on…..and on……and on…….
A wandering mind.
We have all been here. We wake up for the day or try to sleep at night and thus begins the wandering of thoughts. One thought leads to another which leads to worry, distraction, fear, the past, the future. Our mind starts on a brief moment of present and becomes lost in the cloudiness of our thoughts. Our minds have become trained to go on wild journeys of thinking about what has been or what is to come.
Many have told me that they want to learn to meditate so they can turn off their brain’s hectic thinking. However, they also say they tried to meditate and could not because of their brain’s hectic thinking. It is a never ending battle of hope for peace of mind brought down by lack of peace of mind. The good news is, there is a way to calm our minds, without taking away what they have to offer us.
To reach a place of being able to “turn off” our thoughts we must first acknowledge and accept that our thoughts cannot actually be turned off. Meditation is not a way to eliminate thoughts but instead a practice in de-cluttering the messy thoughts and developing concentration. We must train ourselves to become more mindful of the present moments and more diligent on cleaning up thoughts that try to cover those moments up.
A concentrated mind is able to see the world more clearly. This allows us to not only to realign our own hearts and mind but also enter the world around us with a better view. With a concentrated mind, we can experience our world with wholeness, growth, and wisdom. With practice, we can take on any moment, task, or period of time with a peaceful heart and focused thoughts.
To formally practice, start by having a focus point. A good place to focus is the breath. The breath is always accessible and available to us no matter where we are or what we are doing. To focus on your breath, notice how the air feels in your nostrils, feel the air fill your belly, feel your body release with exhale, notice the feeling as the air exits your nostrils or mouth. Watch and feel every part of your breath.
Another point of focus might be an object, such as a candle, a flower, a painting, etc. Your focus might be on a prayer, poem, or song. You might have a shrine or religious symbol you can focus on. Some people like to focus on a sound such as birds singing outside or a piece of music. A vocal chant or sound such as “om” or “ah” on an exhale can also be a place to focus your mind.
Whatever the focus is, begin by settling into a comfortable space. Notice your space and come to a place of meditation with your point of focus ready and available to you.
Breathe deeply and intentionally filling the belly with cleansing air, exhaling what you can let go of.
Begin to focus on your focal point.
When a wandering thought arises. Notice it. Acknowledge that it is there. Often times our thoughts just need to be noticed for us to be able to let them pass by.
You can visualize or imagine that your wandering thoughts get into a bubble that you can pop. You can visualize your wandering thoughts drifting away on a river. Or you can imagine your wandering thoughts being crumpled up like a piece of paper. Once you intentionally let go of the thought, return your attention to your point of focus.
Start by trying to focus on your focus point for four breaths. Then 8 breaths. Then 16 breaths. Just noticing. With grace and confidence gently letting distracting thoughts be cleaned away.
Focus with intention and clarity using all of your senses to experience your focal point. May you just hold that thought and let it float away. Return to clarity that you may carry with you wherever you go. Namaste.