3 Tips For Meditating When Your Mind Is Busy

Something that becomes clear with a regular daily meditation practice is that every day is different.  People who have been meditating for decades still encounter days when they sit down to meditate and the challenge is their mind is busy.  What does that look and feel like?  One way is you place your awareness on the felt sense of breathing and it won’t rest there.  Despite your best efforts, your attention fleets and floats around rapidly.  “It wasn’t like this yesterday …”, you might say.  And that’d be true.  “Maybe I am not making any progress”, you might also say, based on today’s experience.  But that is unlikely to be true.  Instead, it is healthy to recognize that the resting state of your mind changes from time to time.  On those “busy mind days” or “restless” days, some tools in your toolbox are helpful:

  1. Self-Empathy.  When you notice your mind & body are restless, one choice is to give yourself empathy.  Often the restlessness may be due to some unease based on life circumstances.  Be present to your experience.  Allow it to be as it is.  “My mind has lots of thoughts today”, you may observe.  “I have a lot of energy.”  Maybe some insight arises as you notice and acknowledge this experience.  “Ahh, it is likely that I feel agitated because …” .  Often, noticing your restlessness, allowing it, naming it, and empathizing with it, has a calming effect.
  2. Counting.  I continue to return to a tip that was shared with me when I was starting my meditation practice:  Count silently on your inhale “1, 2, 3, 4”.  Pause.  Count silently on your exhale “1,2,3,4”.  Why?  Counting is so easy, you’re able to count and still rest your awareness on the felt sense of breathing.  Counting requires very little attention and energy.  But it gives your busy mind something to do!  When I sit down to meditate and notice that my mind is busy, this is 1 ‘go to’ strategy for me.
  3. Notepad.  When you notice that the rapid succession of thoughts are things you need to do, things you forgot to do, or creative ideas you want to remember, one options that sometimes works is to fetch a pen and a notepad.  Place them beside your leg where you can reach them easily.  When a thought arises of what you need to do later today, write it down.  Then once it is securely recorded and available to you for your review later, you are in a strong position to let it go and return to placing your attention where you choose again.  This tactic takes the ‘juice’ out of the thought.

This list is far from complete.  There are many more.  In fact, one obvious one always available to you is you may choose to end your meditation at that time, to return to it later.

Please share other ones that work for you in the comments section of this page.  That ways your sharing of approaches may be useful to others.  If you find yourself stuck in a recurring challenge, another option is to reach out to me for support.