Meditation - am I doing it right?(20 Posts)
I've downloaded Headspace and have been trying to meditate daily.
My aim is to clear my head. Especially to deal with those 3 am wake ups about work emails I haven't sent etc.
Depending what time I meditate I quite often fall asleep.
The thoughts that creep into my head keep coming. Random stuff that I don't want in my head in that moment! The apps say "accept the thoughts/notice the thoughts" and advises to let them be! What does this mean? What am I actually aiming for? A completely empty head? I'm so confused!
No, you’re not aiming for an empty head. That’s impossible, even for those who have been doing it for years. The aim is to watch your thoughts arise as an observer, and let them come and go. So instead of latching on to them, following the train of thought, thinking about what you have thought, believing the thoughts etc, you don’t engage with them. You just observe them. In a way, it’s a way of recognising that your thoughts are not ‘real’, not necessarily part of you. A way of recognising that the mind engages in ceaseless activity, and we don’t have to be constantly caught up in it.
You might find it helpful to read up a bit on it. Eckhart Tolle is good, as is John Kabat Zinn, but there are others too.
It can be really hard to begin with, the results only come if you stick with it, but can be really well worth it.
Ah, the other thing I should have said is that you are also aiming to not push uncomfortable thoughts away, not trying to suppress them, either. The aim is to observe them neutrally too. This can make practice uncomfortable at times, to begin with. But over time, you will find uncomfortable, stress-inducing thoughts hold less and less sway over you, and are less and less destabilising and anxiety-provoking. It can be great for anxiety and depression, stress etc. That said, if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or depression it might be helpful to learn to meditate with a professional, as the process can exacerbate symptoms before it reduces them.
@Tolleshunt thank you for taking the time to reply.
What I am trying to achieve personally is to manage the little thoughts that I have on constant repeat! I don't get any further into the thought but have it on a loop running through my head. It is frustrating. It's like constantly singing the first two lines of a song but not getting to finish the whole tune.
Do you think meditation would be good for this?
I just wanted to recommend Buddhify - I think it's good for beginners of meditation as it talks about exactly this in some of the meditations
The other thing I've found really helpful for helping you to switch off from thoughts is yoga. I love that for an hour or so, you are just concentrating on breathing, moving and valuing yourself. It's great.
Yes, meditation would definitely help with that, though it’s not a quick fix, but more something that would become more effective over time, with practice.
In the meantime, if the thoughts are connected with tasks you need to do, then taking action to get them done, where possible, will stop the thoughts coming. Of course, that’s not always possible, which is where the meditation will help.
You can always be mindful during the day too, not just during meditation (in fact, in many ways this is just as/more powerful), eg when you notice you are having the thoughts, just try to observe them with curiosity, and neither dive in and run with them nor try to push them away. Then let them go (don’t force this - it will likely happen by itself, but if it doesn’t then no worries. Eventually something else will happen to crowd the thought out for a bit).
Applying mindfulness to daily life will help, over time, as it gives less space for the intrusive thoughts. Eg, when you are in the shower, instead of eg planning your day, pay attention instead to all the experiences you are having; the feeling of the water on your body, the smell of the products, the sound is the water running etc. If you really focus on that it can be surprising how interesting and pleasurable the mundane tasks of daily life can be (though pleasure seeking is not the goal...).
I agree with AnnaNimmity (great name!) that yoga can be very helpful. Qi Gong is also great for being in the flow and mindfully moving the body. Most classes incorporate a mediation segment.
I do find it difficult to understand the concept of just allowing the thoughts and "observing" them. I don't quite understand this. Does that mean that my ego is in control?
I don't know how to observe my own thoughts. I don't really understand what this means though.
I'm crap at meditation, but I do get the concept - I think.
When a thought comes in, just notice it and ignore it. Refocus on whatever it is that you are meditating to. Don't follow the thought. Can you visualise? Picture the thoughts as ribbons. They float in, but you don't have to grab the ribbon, nor do you have to follow it. Just let it float away.
It's like when I see roadkill (bear with me!) I know that if I look at it to identify what animal it was, the image will stay with me and upset me. So I actively do not look at it. I notice that it's there, but I don't follow with my eyes, I don't look at it. I don't need that thought in my head. Does that make sense to anyone other than me?
Platinum has given good suggestions.
I wouldn’t necessarily get too hung up on concepts like ‘ego’, unless you find it particularly helpful. I sometimes imagine myself stepping sideways or backwards out of myself before meditating, as I find it aids the process of observation. So it’s kind of like a part of me has the thoughts, while another part observes them.
It’s easy to fuse with the thoughts, such that you think the thoughts are you, that they are real and that you are always in charge of the thought processes. The reality is that much of what churns through our minds is automatic, generated unconsciously by experiences, memories, triggers, hormones etc. A lot of it is, frankly, crap. Not in any way profound, yet we often treat it as if it is. This is particularly true of anxious thoughts, and where the fusing with the thoughts can become a big problem. Observing the thoughts come and go with curiosity helps us see that’s the mind is always restless, and that it is in its nature to be so. Yet we can find peace if we can detach from the thoughts and not identify with them.
Eckhart Tolle covers this well in ‘The Power of Now’, and the audiobook of this, which he narrates, has some helpful exercises (I promise i’m not his agent!). Rick Hanson also has some interesting material.
Can we just go back to basics for a second. What is happening when you're meditating?
When people say "what you're meditating on" what do you actually mean?
When people say "what you're meditating on" what do you actually mean? I think here they usually just mean you’re thinking about something.
Meditation is a practice of focussing the mind, training your attention, in which hopefully you will develop more calmness, clarity and greater insight into the nature of the mind. It is a way of accessing the peace and stillness that is always there, under the ceaseless chatter.
It’s one of those things that in many ways is hard to describe fully accurately, you just need to experience it. I would suggest reading up on it but, more importantly, try out a few ways of doing it and see what happens. If you find it difficult to watch thoughts, you could start with a body scan meditation. John Kabat Zinn and many others do them.
Thank you. I'm guilty of procrastinating/planning rather than the action but reading these posts is helping.
I've read the power of now. Half way through a new earth but have read another half a dozen books in between so haven't got too far into that one. I have listened to the Oprah/Eckhart podcasts on the book though, which are interesting.
Ok, what I do is this.
In order to keep my thoughts in check, I use breathig as an ‘anchor’. So when I start thinking about the teenages being stroppy, the cat litter and the meter reading, I go: ok, back to breathing.
The basic thing I do with the breathing is a feel the cold air coming through the tip of my nose and I am waiting for the warm air to come out.
That’s just something to keep your thoughts dancing about all over the place.
Then, say I have a problem to solve, somethinng that upsets me etc. What I do is settle myself and my breathing and just imagine my worries as dark clouds. And my breathing is pushing them out of the way. So imagine a dark, messy cloud that doesn’t really know what it is soing, imagine it travelling across the sky. If it stops to gather more clouds, use your breathing to clear the clouds off your sky.
Don’t worry too much about doing it right or wrong, what’s important is doing it. With practice you will get benefits without knowing it’s happening.
What I find helpful when I feel my thoughts getting too busy is to focus on my breath. A yoga / meditation teacher I often go sometimes uses the mantra ‘I’m breathing in, I know I’m breathing in. I’m breathing out, I know I’m breathing out’ you can pace it to match your breath and can be very useful in keeping active thought away.
I also focus on the breath - if necessary counting the breaths.
OP you could try using guided meditation to start with? There are lots of apps.
@SeaSidePebbles on the buddhify app, there's a really good track where he refers to emotions/thoughts as clouds - where you (the person) are the sky.
I too focus on breath! I enjoy the moment "off" life but I am not sure if I am really benefitting yet.
What benefits do all of you find?
I’m not doing it for the benefits. I’m doing it because inside my head became a bit too crowded and stormy. So I started by just learning to stay still, not rush. And then because I had an allocated time to watch my storms, it freed up other time. I’ve learnt to control my thoughts.
anna, I would struggle with the concept of me being the sky. Because part of the meditative state is disassociation, i think. It’s almost like: I have to be a blue sky and these back clouds are just unwanted nuissances.
I just think that the blue sky is the natural state of things, the normal, the bit we all enjoy.
There are just times when I need to turn this loop of thoughts off and I try to meditate and it's like they're having a rave in my head!
Just popping to the front of my mind and will not settle down.
What is a tool to deal with this? Maybe it's not meditation that I need! Please help! I need to rest from these thoughts.
I call this spiralling, with me it’s anxiety. I went on a CBT course and learnt some strategies to deal with it.
I allocate time in the morning, 20 minutes, to write them all down. So when they pop up in the night, I shut them down with a: now it’s not the time, I’ll do that in the morning.
There is other stuff you can do, like reframing. Look up CBT for dummies, I found that book useful
There are mindfulness and CBT courses, see if you can find one near where you are.
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