Is It OK To Think During Meditation?

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One of the most pervasive misconceptions to do with meditation is that we shouldn’t have any thought while meditating.

This is, of course, not true and can be very disheartening to new meditators sitting down to practice and then battling a tidal wave of thoughts, thinking, “I’m doing this wrong.”

The truth is, we meditate to learn how to manage our thoughts, so if those thoughts disappeared, we’d have no tool to practice with!

No thoughts, no meditation.

How to Think About Thoughts

View your thoughts in meditation like a radio playing in the background whilst you’re trying to have a conversation with a good friend.

You know what they have to say is important, but sometimes you just can’t help but get distracted by what’s happening in the background.

The vast majority of meditation techniques will use some form of stimulus as the focus of the meditation.

For example, you might be trying to concentrate on your breath or bodily sensation when body scanning.

You could be paying attention to the bottom of your foot while doing walking meditation or focusing on a mantra that you’re repeating in your mind.

No matter what it is your trying to tune into, your stream of consciousness will always be trying to compete for that attention.

Try to view those competing thoughts like a radio playing in the background whilst you’re trying to have a conversation with a good friend.

You know what they have to say is important, but sometimes you just can’t help but get distracted by what’s happening in the background.

Our goal is to keep directing our focus back to where we want it when we realise we’ve become distracted.

The background noise is never going to go away, but we can turn it down and have some control over how much attention we give it.

Like a radio playing in the background, even if your thoughts are there, you don't have to pay attention to them.

What Should I Think About When Meditating?

Three easy steps to help you harness your thoughts to meditate better.

A quiet mind, void of any thoughts, is what people often think is required to get into a deep meditative state, but that’s not always true.

In fact if you recognise and embrace your inner voice, you can harness those thoughts to help you.

Nowadays we lead hectic, even chaotic, lives which are bombarded with images and messages that can be tough to completely switch off from.

It’s almost like we need to dampen those distracting voices down, and instead concentrate on ‘helpful’ thoughts and techniques to aid our meditation.

So let’s begin.

Set Your Intention and Harness Your Breath

Meditation is all about slowing a racing mind and becoming more aware of the physical, while connecting both mind and body.

The beauty about meditation is that you can do it anywhere, but the reason most people choose to sit or even lie in a quiet room for example, is to help them pause and relax.

Slowing down often means you can start focusing on your breath. Breathing is literally the gateway to meaningful meditation as your mind focuses on the rise and fall of your inhalations and exhalations; in doing so, distractive thoughts start to take a back seat.

There are different breathing meditation techniques, but often your natural breathing pattern will be most effective.

  1. Simply take in a full breath through the nose and hold it for four seconds, and then take a long exhale via your mouth for four or more seconds.

  2. Repeat this at least five times, or for however long it takes you to feel calm.

  3. Let your eyes relax, your jaw, your neck, shoulders etc…literally every time you exhale, breathe out tension from your body, mind and soul.

  4. Now and again you may like to practice Lion’s Breath, also known as simhasana in Sanskrit. This is a technique commonly used in yoga, and involves you sticking out your tongue when you exhale. It is a good way to help relax the face and neck.

  5. We recommend you only practise Lion’s Breath from time to time, and preferably at the beginning of your practise when you’re settling into your breath to aid relaxation, and then continue with regular exhalations via the mouth.

So what happens when thoughts about dinner, work, kids, schooling start to creep back into your mind?

Answer: refocus on your inhalations and exhalations. If distracting thoughts start to become noisier then counting the seconds to inhale (1…2…3…4) can be helpful until you feel a sense of calm. By doing this you are harnessing your own runaway thoughts.

Focus on Something, Someone or Yourself

Having a focal point can often be very helpful when meditating as it’ll keep you in the present and quiet distracting thoughts. So what should you focus on?

Your breath is of course your first point of call, the rise and fall of your inhalations and exhalations will bring you to the present; but let’s explore further focal points.

Focus on your body:

  • Focus on your body and the physical sensations that you’re feeling, start at the top of your head, and literally move down your body to the tip of your toes. Concentrate on the feeling in your shoulders, for example, do they feel tight or relaxed? Can you feel the air fill your lungs and then fall and relax as you exhale? Do your feet feel tired, painful or light and strong.

  • Acknowledge these feelings and breathe out any feelings of stress. Repeat this body scan, and connect with your body to help quiet your mind.

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Focus on a feeling:

  • Start your practice off with a simple breathing exercise, and bring forth a positive feeling such as gratitude, compassion or forgiveness. Keep your focus on that feeling.
  • When you inhale you may, for example, like to think about something, or someone in your family for whom you’re grateful for and keep that image in your head.
Is it ok to think during meditation
focusing on those around you can help manage distracting thoughts.

Chant a Mantra

A mantra is a word or phrase that’s repeated to support your concentration.

There are seven specific meditation mantras linked to your chakras or energy centres, but many people create their own personal mantras which are positive affirmations.

Think about what you want to affirm in your life, do you want to become more grateful? Do you want to remind yourself to be calm? Do you want to keep your mind, body and soul open to opportunities?

Discover your own mantra, for example:

“I am grateful for my life and all those whom I connect with.”
“Today is a new day, I will be open to all new experiences with an open heart.”
“I will seek out a calm and serenity wherever I go.”

Begin your meditation with some deep inhales and exhales, and then focus on your mantra, repeating each word slowly and meaningfully.

Lastly….

Meditation is a skill that everyone can do, and it’s a beautiful skill to help you throughout life, just harness those thoughts for a better practice.