Whether you're a meditating novice or you've been doing it for years, you might have trouble with it. Maybe you think you're doing it wrong. One of the biggest challenges? Thoughts that pop up. It just so happens that I gave some advice to someone about this yesterday and then today, I came across a related article while looking something else up.
Handling Intrusive Thoughts while Meditating. There are two parts I want to address:
During mindfulness meditation you keep your attention on your breath, but you want to be fully aware in this moment. So you still take note of sounds and smells, aches and pains, all that makes up the present moment. When thoughts arise the instructions are to notice them, let them go, and return to the breath.
But to just blot out thoughts without paying attention to them would not be very mindful at all. Don’t ignore your thoughts… Instead, work with them.
I agree with the second paragraph. Work with your thoughts. However, I don't think you need to let them go all the time.
As a thought pops up, acknowledge it, let it go, and return to the breath. Don’t carry it out to a conclusion. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t try to add reason at this time. Notice that you’re thinking, that your mind has pulled you away from your awareness of this moment, and place your attention back on the breath.
The point is never to not think. The point is to remain aware of what is going on in and around you right now. Too many scattered thoughts can drag you away from the moment and cheat you of your present experience. Acknowledging thoughts, labeling them, and coming back to the present, to the breath, can help you stay centered and focused.
…And sometimes you should carry it to conclusion.
To what I was referring to in my introduction above: Yesterday in a Facebook group that I participate in someone commented that she has a hard time quieting her wandering mind. This was my response:
Be kind to yourself. I've heard guided meditation leaders say, “Think of your thoughts as clouds. Observe them and let them go.” I don't completely agree that this is the way to go during every meditation. My inner guide told me so.
During a meditation once, my inner guide told me this: If thoughts enter your head, rather than banish them immediately, ask yourself, “Does this thought serve me in this moment?” Don't be afraid to follow it if the answer is “yes”. Don't think that you're “meditating wrong” if your mind wanders.
Sometimes you should go down that path. It could be insightful or inspiring or creative. If it's something such as “Damn, I forgot to do the laundry”, tell yourself that you'll deal with it later and get back to meditating. Ask yourself if that thought is disrupting your meditation time or whether it's an integral part of it. Ask yourself questions as you go down the path. What you might think is a wandering mind could be a conversation with your inner self.
So yes, think. Let go sometimes. Keep it going sometimes.
Doing so might give you a more enriching meditation experience, a less stressful one, one that you don't feel that you're doing “wrong”.
My biggest challenge while meditating? Remembering the messages that come up. I want to take notes while I meditate but I don't want to “come to”. Sometimes by the time I become aware and alert again I've forgotten. “Taking notes while meditating” is what I was searching when I found the article above.
Do you meditate? Whether you meditate regularly or have simply tried and given up, what's your biggest challenge?