Q&A: How to Keep Your Thoughts From Taking Over During Meditation?

Question: How do you keep your thoughts from taking over during meditation?

Reply: Excellent question, and a great chance to learn some good meditation strategy!

Thoughts taking over is another way of saying that we’re distracted. There are some strategies we can use to help limit distractions while meditating.

Meditation Times:

We have around 12-15 minutes before meditating becomes more difficult. Then our mind wants to shift over to paying attention to our surroundings. This safety mechanism makes it more difficult when we try to meditate for longer periods. So for best results split longer meditation times into 12-15 minute periods. Do a little stretching, moving around, and looking around for a minute or two between periods.

Also, within 30 minutes blood begins to pool in our feet, legs, and seat reducing blood flow through the brain. This makes it harder to pay attention. It can also lead to having some deceptive meditation experiences. If you stick to the 12-15 minute rule you’ll never have to worry about this.

Being Uncomfortable:

Sit back or lay down and get comfy. Being uncomfortable is always distracting. (related article: Meditation shouldn’t be a no-pain-no-gain activity)

Boredom:

Yes, meditating can be boring. But if we use a combination of meditation subjects there’s less room for boredom to seep in.

For example, be aware of breathing in and out as you meditate which is somewhat dynamic (changes). At the same time be aware of the sounds around you. This gives us enough dynamic content to help prevent the mind from getting bored. This split-awareness aspect is a crucial part of the original Buddhist mindfulness practices.

When not to meditate:

Sometimes it’s hard to get past mental agitation or an inability to mentally focus. For example when we’re feeling ill or in pain from an injury or other medical condition. When we’re dealing with a family emergency, overtired, etc.

When we just can’t settle in it’s usually better if we don’t try to force the issue. Forcing ourselves to try to meditate can turn it into a chore that we start avoiding.

Instead of trying to force it, try to remember to take some slow deep cleansing breaths now and then. If you need to try taking your mind off what’s bothering you do something else that you find relaxing. If you’re overtired, make sure to set aside some time to catch up on your sleep if at all possible.

Meditation should be a pleasant learning experience. Using these guidelines can help keep it that way, allowing you to make the most of the time you invest in yourself.

I hope this was helpful,
~ Todd

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