You can’t stop your thoughts when you meditate. Nor should you try. That’s one of the common frustration among beginners when they tried exactly that. I’ve got a few meditation experts to spoke their mind on that here. And yet you can’t let loose your thoughts like a wild circus. So what do you think when you meditate?
I feel I need to write this post, as I came across a Huffington Post article with the title “How to Stop Thinking During Meditation”. As useful as the tips provided by Shawna McGrath, I must say I disagree with the headline, as it gives unrealistic expectation. And frustration when people realize that they can’t really stop their thinking after all.
You can’t just shift into a zone and expect your thoughts to stop suddenly. No, as long as you’re still alive, you will still have thoughts.
You need to understand there are typically 3 types of thoughts that when formed, will trigger a different response from your mind.
These thoughts often bring you stress, anger, and hatred. You get unhappy because of this. You’ll probably have these thoughts if you’ve got into a fight with your beloved or you had a bad day at work, no thanks to your boss.
Think two weeks of blissful vacation at the beach where you don’t have to check your emails or answer calls. Or how your child called you “daddy” or “mommy” for the first time. These are the thoughts that invoke happiness, gratitude, and joy.
Think “I am reading now“, “Where should I click to get the free ebook“, or “How can I know if I’m meditating the right way“. Do you notice that these thoughts are neutral on its own? These thoughts don’t lift you up nor pull you down. They are just naturally so.
You don’t want angry thoughts exploding all over when you meditate. That’s for sure. Most experts advice on negative thoughts is to be aware of them and bring back your attention to your meditation object.
If you don’t do that, your risked turning a blissful meditation session to a brooding session of pettiness and anger. Definitely not the right benefits of meditation that you want.
If you are doing mindfulness or concentration based meditation, you would want to avoid positive thoughts too.
Yes, you read that right.
I know it makes you happy thinking about those joyful moments. But you don’t want to end up daydreaming instead of meditating. It’s easier to be led away by joyful thoughts than negative ones.
This brings us down to the neutral thoughts. It’s the one type of thought that occupies your mind most of the time if you are meditating the right way.
If you’re practicing mindfulness meditation, you’ll be busy trying to feel the sensation of your breath, or any sensations that caught your attention.
You’ll have thoughts like “I feel my breath is too shallow“, “I’m feeling tensed on my face muscle“. Or you’ll think “I need to focus” when you noticed you are wandering away.
Even if you’re doing concentration based meditation, you’ll be thinking and focusing on your mantra or mental visualizations.
These are neutral thoughts that happen naturally in meditation and it’s completely all right, as long as you are aware that you are “thinking“.
But just be aware that these neutral thoughts can lead to positive or negative ones if left unguarded. Example “I’m feeling a back pain” could lead to “Why does it happened every time?” and leads to frustration.
While I mention that it’s best not to have positive thoughts running astray in your meditation practice, there’s one form of meditation I learned that focus on invoking positive thoughts.
When you practice loving-kindness meditation, you visualize yourself being happy, and you invoke that happiness within you. Then you wished the happiness upon others (family, friends and fellow human being).
This particular form of meditation is effective especially if you have issues with anger management. It is also known to develop patience and compassion. You can read more about the benefits of loving-kindness meditation here.
If you’re still thinking that meditating is about thinking or not thinking, you need to shift your perspective.
How you handle your thoughts in meditation will result in whether you are feeling relaxed or all stressed out after meditating.
Meditation is about having the right thoughts and knowing what to do when unwanted thoughts appear. When you realize that you can have awareness without being carried away by your thoughts, then you are meditating the right way.
Tame your monkey mind. You can’t take away the monkey.
Your Turn Now :
Have you struggled with meditation because you can’t silence the thoughts in your mind? Have you started meditating on the advice “Clear your thoughts from your mind” ? Did I miss anything out in my post? Share your thoughts with me.
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