You’re finally learning to meditate, and it feels great! You’re learning to drift into the vast spaciousness, your body feels relaxed and energized. You’re beginning to live in the moment. Finally, you’re in that perfectly sweet spot of meditation, and all your practice is beginning to pay off. But just when you thought you’re doing so well, thoughts come creeping on.
“Shoot! I forgot to take out the trash last night. I’m afraid pests will infest the area.” “I just remembered that I still have to do my assignment for the night.” “I have not yet checked my e-mail, and an important one might come in.”
Meditation experts recognize how often these thoughts come creeping in. And once they start coming in, they begin to pour in like a flood. Though you try to let go and bring yourself back to a meditative state, you start worrying about thinking even more. Before you know it, you criticize yourself and an endless cycle of unproductive thoughts begins.
This is exactly how not to meditate. Having thoughts during meditation are but perfectly normal. Here’s how you can start combating them.
1. Realize that these thoughts are just like every other sensation and external sights. They’re just another thing happening in your meditative experience. Instead of trying to shoo them away, accept them with an open mind and accept them for what you are. Don’t judge them, but love them for what they are. I imagine that your instinct is to be vicious towards these negative thoughts. But this will only be counterproductive to your goal.
2. Regard these thoughts as mental sounds, and don’t pay attention to what it contains. Just stay open. Don’t involve yourself in the thoughts, as they are merely sounds along the stream of your consciousness in your meditation. They’re just like every other mental sound, like the chirping of the birds or the gushing of the river.
3. Relax and enjoy. The moment you start worrying more, that’s when you begin to defeat yourself even more and sink further into distraction. Remember that the more accepting and relaxed you are, the less you will worry and feel anxious. You can’t stop the brain from thinking, but you can certainly change the way you react to it.
In the end, the effectiveness of meditation lies not in how you are able to repel these thoughts, but in how you react to them.