“Jules, how can I control my thoughts during meditation?”
When it comes to meditation, one of the main obstacle people experience when they try to meditate is that their mind starts to wander. Very early during a meditation, people are overwhelmed by their thoughts. And quite often people stop meditating because of that.
It is a very frequent question. What I offer is a good way to tackle that problem. So, how to avoid being overwhelmed by thoughts during your meditation? Here’s the answer.
Do not meditate for abundance
If you look for #meditation on instagram, you will very soon realise that a big trend is to meditate in order to acquire something. Meditate to become richer, meditate to attract more into your life. This is a thought about what life should bring you. Meditating on a thought does not seem to be a great way to avoid having thoughts during meditation as most of my clients have tried that before and it didn’t really work for them.
To control your thoughts, do not meditate to control your thoughts
A second trend when it comes to meditation, is to pretend that meditation is for the mind. And that the mind can be controlled. If I want to caricature, yoga is for the body, meditation is for the mind. The game is to reconnect both. I think that body and mind are just words pointing at the same thing. Trying to reconnect them is a fallacy as they never were disconnected at first.
Sam Cooke sings a song called “Don’t fight it, feel it”. It is the same here. Don’t try to control your thoughts during meditation or you will trigger the mechanism even more. Most of our thoughts are defences, just like tensions. Stretching is overrated for tensions.
Controlling the mind is overrated when it comes to not having thoughts.
You cannot have no goals if the goal of your meditation is to have no goals
What are thoughts? For most of us, thoughts are reactions to our environment, reactions to life. I believe I have goals, I believe life should be like this or like that, I believe that our partner should be different. My dog should behave, my neighbour should say hi, my patient should be more thankful. The weather should be better, my colleague should be more, my world should be less. These are most of our thoughts.
Most meditation teachings either try to control those thoughts, or to feed them. But you cannot have no goals if you set a goal for your meditation. If you do so, you lose the game even before it starts.
Come back to the body
The body is a very convenient tool for us. It is present all day long and is a source of experience if you feel like listening to it. Instead of seeing meditation as a tool for the mind, I would recommend you to start from your body. Come back to it, again and again.
Feeling what a knee is, feeling what a hand is, wondering how many legs you have, and give an answer based on what you feel, not based on what you know. And the same can be applied to emotions or thoughts. Have you ever wondered what a leg feels like? How anger feels like? Is it heavy/sharp/liquid? You might feel frustrated if you have a lot of thoughts going on during your meditation. How does frustration feels in your body?
Feel the body as a space
Now, instead of feeling the parts of your body, can you try to experience your body as a space? Start small. Instead of feeling the different parts of your hands, can you feel the whole hand? Can you start to hold space?
Feel the tensions in that space
Now that you are feeling your whole hand as a space, what do you feel inside that space? Can you feel a tension? Can you describe it? Is it warm? Heavy? Is it pulling? Is it a pressure?
If you spend time doing that, your mind will focus more and more, which is a great way to avoid thoughts during meditation. But wait, there’s more.
Hold the space: Do not control your thoughts
Now you have the choice. Feeling the tension, or feeling the space in which the tensions appear. And I would like to invite you to do that. Feel the space. Become the space. Do not focus on the tension, or on the thought, but feel the space in which the tension appears, dances and dies. Do not focus on the thoughts but on the space in which the thoughts appear. And do not focus on your breathing, but on the space in which the breathing appears, and especially the space in which your breath dies when you breath out. This is what I do when I work with babies. This is what I do when I meditate. I do not try to control my thoughts during meditation, just like I do not try to change my patient during a treatment.
Here is the key. This is how to avoid having thoughts during meditation. But you can still try to control your mind, your life and your body if you want. When you’ll get really tired, and if you feel like it, we can meditate together. But be careful: we won’t meditate for you to become more famous or for peace in the world. Only violent people do that. We won’t meditate for. We will only meditate.
About Jules RampalMeditation teacher and osteopath
I am an online meditation teacher and an osteopath currently working in Cavan, Ireland. My courses are for people who want to learn meditation with guided sessions, and for therapists who want to delve into the way they feel and the knowledge they can gather for their clients.
Learn more about me here