What Do You Think When You Meditate And Why It Matters

By Kenny Lee | Meditation

Oct 17

What Do You Think When You Meditate

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.

Understanding Your Thoughts

You need to understand there are typically 3 types of thoughts that when formed, will trigger a different response from your mind.

Negative Thoughts

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.

Positive Thoughts

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.

Neutral Thoughts

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.

How Positive And Negative Thoughts Are Dealt With

What Do You Think When You Meditate

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.

So, What Do You Think When You Meditate?

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.

Meditation That Requires Positive Thoughts

What Do You Think When You Meditate

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.

The Loving Kindness Meditation

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.

It’s Important To Meditate With The RIght Thoughts.

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.

Try Aware Meditation App To Help You In Your Mindfulness Practice (Read My Review)

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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About the Author

I struggled with social anxiety for at least 15 years, without really knowing what I was going through. Eventually, I defeated my social phobia and conquered the fear of public speaking.

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(28) comments

Xaric October 17, 2016

I remember that when I was a beginner, every time that a negative thought popped up in my head I was trying to get rid of it and that so frustrating.

The secret to mindful meditation is to just observe. Observe yourself from a point of no judgement. It sounds easy but it is really not.

Non-judgmental awareness. That is embedded inside my head when mindfulness comes to mind.

I would really love to hear your opinion Kenny.

Harry.

Reply
    Kenny Lee October 17, 2016

    Harry,

    You are spot on. It’s about mindfulness, awareness or you can all it observing. But this concept could be hard to grasp for beginners especially if they are picking up meditation on their own.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
      Harry October 18, 2016

      Yeah, I know. It took me a lot of time and practice to realize that, and still I can’t say that I am able to achieve it 100%.
      Sometimes I get carried away too, or get overwhelmed with emotion. But I believe, this is okay. It is part of the experience. This is how we learn. 🙂

      Thank you for the nice article.

      Harry.

      Reply
        Kenny Lee October 18, 2016

        You’re welcome.

        We are always in the learning process.

        Cheers,
        Kenny

        Reply
Tej October 17, 2016

Hi Kenny,

I really enjoyed reading your post about meditation. I also found that when I started meditating, it was hard to control my thoughts. I really like how you stress about having neutral thoughts, I will try and put that into practice. Personally I found that the more I tried to control any negative or positive thoughts, the harder I found to meditate.

I would like to get your opinion on one thing. In today’s busy world, I feel meditation is a great way to clear your mind. On the contrary, I also find that it is hard setting the time aside to meditate. Can you give any suggestions on how people can make meditation a regular part of their daily routine?

Looking forward to your response.

Tej

Reply
    Kenny Lee October 17, 2016

    Hi Tej,

    I want to thank you for taking your time to go through my post. The key to having a calm mind in a meditation is don’t force. Whether you are practicing mindfulness or concentration based meditation, when your mind strays or negative thoughts arise, just bring back your attention to your meditation. There is no need to feel frustrated even if you spend 90% of your time dealing with negative thoughts.

    Your meditation experience will improve gradually. Eventually, it becomes a habit and negative thoughts will have no hold over you. And when negative thoughts have no control of you, it will arise less frequent, leaving you with only neutral thoughts.

    As for meditation in the busy life, I’m actually to write a post about it. Something that goes along the line of “Practical Meditation For Busy Moms”. I will personally email you when it’s published.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Cheers,
    Kenny

    Reply
Jackie October 17, 2016

Great post! I’m a long time meditator and can back your point that it’s impossible to stop thought. You can only notice thoughts. If you try to stop them, it will lead to lots of frustration and eventually you will give it up because you will see it as a waste of time… Which is a shame because it can literally save you from yourself!

You may want to know about a typo in your post: “I feel by breath is too shallow“

Thanks for the fun read!

Reply
    Kenny Lee October 17, 2016

    Hi Jackie,

    Thanks for sharing your experience here. There’s no stopping thought. The illusion of doing so is because we do not hold on to thoughts, merely noticing them as you mentioned.

    It’s like opening your hand in a stream and let the water flow through.

    And thanks for letting me know on the typo.

    Cheers,

    Kenny.

    Reply
dreamgirl93 October 17, 2016

I meditate every morning after I drink my morning cafe and I feel very energized and optimistic to start the day.
Sometimes I like to listen to an audiobook abut self-growth and motivation while I meditate. Is this wrong?
I get really focused on what I hear and I feel in my heart and chest as my joy grows.

Reply
    Kenny Lee October 17, 2016

    I believe what you are doing could be other form of meditation that I’m not familiar with. Or it could be a form of guided meditation? As it manage to achieve what you intended (focus and joy), I would say keep doing what you do. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Only if it leads you to frustration that you need to review your methods.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
Yvonne October 17, 2016

One of the first things I learned when meditating was that you can’t stop your mind from thinking. When I notice myself thinking during a meditation, I set the intention to focus on what is happening in that present moment. This means that the thoughts fade away without pushing them away, which can bring up stressful feelings.

Reply
    Kenny Lee October 18, 2016

    Hi Yvonne,

    You find calm and peace when you’re not holding to thoughts. As long as you do not feed energy to your thoughts, they will fade.

    Cheers,
    Kenny

    Reply
Michel October 17, 2016

Great article. I am one of those who gets frustrated trying to meditate, as those thoughts just creeping in. I didn’t know how to stop them.

Now that I have read this article, it has made me realize why I am battling so much and that it doesn’t matter if this happens. Thank you as this has made me want to try this again.

Reply
    Kenny Lee October 18, 2016

    Hi Michel,

    Hope this article will help you in your attempt to meditate again.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
Andrew G October 17, 2016

That is greatly appreciated simply because I have struggled with this at times, while I have found it beneficial to be in as relaxed a state as possible, it really helps to focus on letting go of all those negative thoughts as you brought out, and you can fix your mind slowly, since the longer you do so the better, it is always still a bit of a challenge.

Reply
    Kenny Lee October 18, 2016

    Hi Andrew,

    Meditation is a continual practice and journey.

    Thanks for reading.

    CHeers,

    Kenny

    Reply
Holly October 17, 2016

Hello, I would like to ask you, does meditation help with depression? If so how? I know it helps with anxiety, but I don’t know how it could help depressive symptoms. What kind of meditation would you do to increase your mood to being positive. Thank you. You have a lot of great and useable content on your site.

Reply
    Kenny Lee October 18, 2016

    Hi Holly.

    While meditation does indeed help with depression, I wouldn’t recommend you to try unguided/solo meditation on your own. Reason is, when someone is in depression, their mind is in such a negative state that it is unable to differentiate between the meditation awareness state or the state of depression they are in.

    For a quick uplifting of your mood, you can try uplifting relaxation meditation music or guided audio meditation.

    Here’s a link that may help.

    With that said, in a solo guided meditation, you shouldn’t meditate with the expectation that this session is going to make me better. Because expectation during meditation hinders progress itself. Just meditate and let your thoughts relax.

    Reply
Adam October 18, 2016

This was a really enlightening read. I find it difficult to meditate sometimes when I am too stressed from the days work and I think it is because I have been trying too hard to focus on positive things. Maybe a more neutral meditative approach would suit me better.

I have friends whose lives have been massively improved through meditation so I know it is powerful and works.
Thanks so much for sharing this information.

Adam

Reply
    Kenny Lee October 18, 2016

    Hi Adam,

    Don’t force your thoughts and don’t get attach to them. Your mind is calm when you are balanced.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
alisonklingvall October 18, 2016

Hi Kenny,
Great article.
What is the difference in practice and benefits of meditation vs self hypnosis?
I have been listening to a lot of hypnosis recordings and have found them very beneficial in reducing stress, losing weight and becoming more driven and motivated; just a more positive outlook overall.
What will meditation do for me?
Kind regards,
Alison

Reply
    Kenny Lee October 19, 2016

    Hi Alison,

    I’ve never done self-hypnosis and I can’t comment much on that. But I’ve listened to hypnosis audio and it’s amazing how it can bring to our mind to a higher leve.

    As for meditation, there are various types of meditation that we can practice. My favourite is mindfulness, because I can bring the practice to my daily life, while I can’t listen to hypnosis audio all the time.

    For more benefits of meditation, check this out.

    31 Proven Benefits Of Meditation When You Make It Your New Habit

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
James W D October 18, 2016

Kenny I have developed my own little way of going about meditation over the years now. I start off with breathing and counting down with each breath from 5 to 1. In between some of the numbers I will also think to myself to relax and allow that feeling to wash over me.

Once I am have reached 1 I am in a pretty good state of meditation and I will typically start off for the first little bit following my breath and filing away any thoughts that bubble up. I do actually visualize the thoughts being placed in a folder and than into a drawer and shutting it.

from there though I will often do a prayer of protection to Arch Angel Michael and ask that my family and I be surrounded by the loving light of the universe.

After that I like to take time to communicate with my guide and higher self. I have had many a conversations now and this has helped me tremendously in life.

Reply
    Kenny Lee October 19, 2016

    Hi James,

    Thanks for sharing your thought. It’s amazing how meditation can be evolved to suit our personal requirement. Visualization is a powerful tool. I’ve tried that too and it works.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
Matthew October 18, 2016

Very interesting article, i have been trying to meditate for a while now yet at times thoughts are just everywhere, however i find that if i want to try and find the answer to something i somewhat try focus on that thought in the back of my mind to find the higher consciousness answer which isnt my ego. Visualisation has been the go to for me when doing positive mediation, its such a powerful tool.

Reply
    Kenny Lee October 19, 2016

    Hi Matthew,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Visualization helps to build your concentration.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
Dan October 19, 2016

hey just qone quesiton, regarding the mindful meditation and netural thoughts should one also come back to the breath or it’s any diff when it come to the netural? it wasn’t so clear
thanks alot powerful post!!

Reply
    Kenny Lee October 20, 2016

    Hi Dan,

    You always go back to your breathing. You will have neutral thoughts as you do so. Eventually, you’ll forgot that you are actually “thinking” and those thoughts become background of your awareness.

    Hope it helps.

    Cheers,
    Kenny

    Reply
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