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People sometimes say they don’t meditate or use mindfulness because they tried it once and it didn’t work. Others believe that only yogis or people like the Dalai Lama can meditate or use mindfulness because they have loads of time to devote to it daily. Still others may think that meditation means emptying your head completely and that’s just too darn hard!
Mindfulness and meditation are easier than you think. And you can spend as little as five minutes at a time practising. Interested?
A challenge for many who practice either mindfulness or meditation is distracting thoughts, sometimes called “monkey brain”. It can seem that the more we try to concentrate on one thing (like our breathing, the example I’ll use) or nothing, the more these rogue thoughts butt in. It can seem like a battle trying to shut them down!
Here’s the trick. Meditation and mindfulness isn’t about stopping our myriad thoughts, it’s about noticing them as they arise and returning our attention to our breath.
Let me explain. Have you ever gone swimming in a current? The harder you try to swim against it, the harder you have to swim and the more frustrating and seemingly futile it becomes. But if you let the current take you, it eventually takes you back to shore.
Distractions are similar. When we try our damndest to fight against them, the stronger they seem to become and the further away from meditation and mindfulness we stray. But if we notice the thoughts and turn our attention back to breathing, we take the energy out of those pesky thoughts.
It sounds simple but it’s not necessarily easy. Every day in every moment, we choose what to attend to and what to ignore. Right now you’re probably sitting on a chair. How is it you can focus on this article instead of the chair? Focused attention. The chair is part of the context you’re in, but it probably isn’t dominating your thoughts because you’re choosing to focus on this article instead. And up until I mentioned the chair, you were probably doing so without effort–unless it’s a really uncomfortable chair! Can you notice yourself sitting on it and choose to focus instead on this article?
There will be times when you notice your monkey brain keeps coming back and you have to choose re-focusing on your breathing several times. That’s okay! That’s normal! There’s no reason to judge this. It just is. Distracting thoughts come, you notice them, and you can return your focus to your breathing.
What do you think? I’d love to hear how taking the struggle out of your thoughts is working!