“I’ve tried to meditate but the problem is… I can’t stop thinking”.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that statement in my life.
A belief which is very common among all the people who start their meditation practice and that in a certain way represents one of the ‘false myths’ about meditation.
The reality - and good news - is that none of us can really stop thinking.
Neither the most expert meditators nor the people who have spent their entire life devoted to this practice. Thinking, in fact, is the “duty” of our mind, its intrinsic nature and because of that it’s something completely natural.
What we really want to achieve through meditation is not the ability to stop thinking rather to become aware of what we think; the ability to recognize when we are lost in our thoughts and when, instead, we are present and aware of what is crossing our mind and happening to us.
As I went through the same difficulties that you are probably facing right now with your new journey, I’d like to share with you 5 simple tips that can really help you out with your meditation practice.
It is much better to meditate 5 minutes every day rather than spending one hour in a row once a week.
There will be days when you really do not want to meditate and your mind will start finding excuses not to do it: “I’m too tired, it’s too late, I don’t feel like it today, I have a lot of things to do and so on…” but it is in those moments than we need to find our willpower to commit to the practice and stay coherent with ourselves and our path.
So don’t wait for “the perfect conditions”: no matter what, it is very important for you to find your daily 5 minutes, even if you are too busy or if it is too uncomfortable.
2. SET THE TIME
Schedule your meditation time in your calendar in the same way you’d do it with your own meetings… as a matter of fact this is an important appointment with yourself and you don’t want to miss it.
A great way to help yourself not to procrastinate and avoid the “I-have-no-time” excuse is to set an alarm clock in advance: that can be 5 minutes earlier than your usual waking up time or before your lunch break.
3. CREATE A SACRED SPACE - Create a space that you like to be in… a place that is comfortable, welcoming and quiet where you can use your candles, crystals, cards, images, mandalas… actually anything that is meaningful to you and that makes you feel good. I personally like to use incense, burn palo santo or turn on my essential oil diffuser: this helps me create a ritual for my body and my senses, which immediately recognize the beginning of my practice and put me in a state of deep relaxation.
Even if this space is not really essential - you can meditate everywhere by simply closing your eyes with your spine erect - I find it very useful making the whole practice much more enjoyable.
4. SIT COMFORTABLE- For most of us, just the simple idea of sitting without moving for a certain period of time can be already extremely challenging...
That is why it is very important to find a comfortable position, where you can only focus on your meditation practice and shift your attention inside of you rather than getting constantly distracted by our physical discomfort.
In order to meditate, it is not necessary to sit in a crossed-legs position or in full lotus pose, at the contrary you can just recline back on a wall or simply sit on a chair; you can use pillows or cushions on the floor or sit on your heels with props underneath.
The important thing, in fact, is to maintain your spine straight as much as you can.
At the same time, I don’t suggest you to lay down or to be “too” comfortable: when you start to relax your body, there is a huge tendency to get asleep which is not the purpose of meditation. You want to be vigilant with your mind while your body is relaxed.
Try different seated positions until you find the one that feels right for you.
5. FOCUS ON YOUR BREATH
One of the simplest yet most powerful ways to start meditating is to focus on your breath.
In fact, in order to stay vigilant and awake, to concentrate, we need something to “anchor” us to reality - instead of wandering around the virtual world of our mind - and that can be found in our breath.
Observe your breath as it is, without any need to modify or change it.
Simply let it be whatever it wants to be.
While meditating you can focus your attention on the tip of your nose, your chest or your belly, depending on which one it is easier to observe the flow of your breath and stay focused.
After a few breaths, you will eventually notice how your mind naturally starts thinking and getting lost… It is all normal but remember that it’s in this moment that we need to remind ourselves the purpose of the practice: acknowledging that we got lost, recognizing we have entered the virtual reality and making a conscious decision to come back.
With absolutely no judgments about yourself and your practice.
So, when we realize we got lost in our thoughts, we remind ourselves to come back to the breath and start again to maintain our focus and concentration.
It is not really important how many times you got distracted.
The important thing is to realize that you did it and to choose to come back to reality.
Every time you notice that, your awareness expands and with time and practice you will notice how your mind will be able to focus for longer periods of time.
So be gentle with yourself, don’t get mad or frustrated if, at the beginning of your practice, you keep getting lost in thought: it is completely normal. Instead, be proud of yourself to take the courage to step into a practice that will change your life.
I hope those 5 tips will be useful for you and remember: meditation is an investment that will change your entire life for better, and and if you think that you only need 5 minutes per day… well, I think it is a really great investment!