3 Simple Approaches for Settling Wandering Mind
Have you ever tried to be mindful of your body but found that your mind is wandering all over the place? I know I have! And from my experience, acceptance combined with, regularly coming back to a grounding object of awareness (i.e. the body or the breath) is the best way to navigate the wandering mind.
Are you new to meditation?
If you are new to meditation then take a look around this website, or go through my blog posts:
The essentials of mindfulness meditation part 1: The breath
The essentials of mindfulness meditation part 2: The body scan
They will give you some exercises to get you started. Just have a go and see what happens.
Perhaps you tried the above introduction and found your mind wandered, or maybe you have a regular meditation practice but still find that your mind wanders. Here are three principles that might help with your approach to the wandering mind.
1. Be willing again and again (and again) to come back to your body in the present moment
2. Accept there will be background noise
3. Don’t try too hard to concentrate and thus get yourself frustrated, instead be steady with concentration
1. Coming back to your body in the present moment
Have a read through this guidance on coming back to your body then maybe try the guided meditation below.
Sit and notice your body; how does it feel? What can you notice about your body right now? What is it in contact with; the floor, a chair, a cushion; how does that feel? Try to stay with your body in this way and see how long it takes for your attention to wander: 3 seconds, 5 seconds?
However it is, that is OK. This is not a competition or a right or wrong exercise, it is an accepting exercise. Come back to your body and maybe take in the sensation of your breath around your chest region again. Notice how your chest expands and contracts with each breath.
When your mind wanders simply notice this then return back to body awareness. Don’t be too exacting about it all, don’t get neurotic about meditation, thinking you have to be the perfectly calm meditator, instead just be open to how things are.
How is now?
Take in the sensations of the body or your breath right now. Be willing to accept the mind wanders and be willing to keep returning to your body. That is good, that is enough, don’t add a story about becoming calm or achieving something in meditation, just come back to the body or your breath; that is enough.
Here the guided audio version for you to listen to
2. Accepting background noise
Next, is accepting background noise and I don’t just mean sounds. While, for example, you are trying to focus on your breath you might sense other parts of your body, or hear sounds, or notice thoughts popping into your mind. It could all seem rather: fleeting and too quick to catch. That's ok, be a little loose with your awareness and accept this is how it is.
Open to how it is
From my experience, being a perfect meditator really doesn’t matter - what is a perfect meditator anyway?
A “perfectly concentrated mind, utterly now, focusing upon one object” is sometimes written about in books, or idealised by some people but in reality... well it isn’t a reality.
The reality is that the senses don’t close down, they flow on and accepting this with a sense of openness is, from my experience, a good way to deal with them.
Accept and come back to the posture of the body or the breath and how it is right now.
Establishing a mindfulness meditation practice means regular practise. So perhaps keep in mind this acceptance approach for the next time you meditate and see how it works for you.
3. Don’t try too hard
This is a good skill to nurture in meditation. Getting effort into balance will, not only make meditation easier, but also allow you to enjoy meditation in a healthy way.
Trying too hard to concentrate can inadvertently put too much energy into your body-mind system. It is kind of like trying too hard, say, when you go on a date. Have you ever done that? It is a common mistake for new meditators and some old hands too (not trying too hard on a date but trying too hard in meditation – maybe they do try too hard on dates too – who knows?) Meditators can try so hard to concentrate they wind themselves up; the approach doesn’t really work that well and then they give up.
Putting in a balanced effort is the key here by steadily concentrating with a sense of ease and acceptance.
Try and apply this to the breath the next time you sit to meditate. Just start to notice the sensation of breathing around your torso with a steady easy energy and be willing to accept the mind will wander off at times.
Accept this, come back and continue.
Be open. Be willing. That is enough.
Give yourself a chance and let me know how you get on
Have a play around with the above approaches to meditation. Give yourself a week or even a month or two of regular practice, and see how you get on with them. Let me know how it goes and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.