Trouble Meditating? (Do this FIRST to Empty Your Mind)
Ok so tell me if this sounds familiar, you sit down to meditate in your custom-built meditation area, complete with traditional japanese shoji walls, tibetan bowl, aromatherapy candles and hand-stitched bamboo carpet, or it could also just be a chair, or on the ground, or on your bed, or in your neighbor’s parking spot. I guess where you meditate doesn’t really matter.
Anyway, so you start meditating, maybe you’re using an app like calm or headspace, or you’re focusing on breath and you just can’t seem to focus.
Your mind keeps drifting, you can’t stop thinking about all of the things you have to do today, or you have a sudden idea that you need to write down otherwise you’ll forget it, it feels like your mind is a tornado and you’re just a helpless dairy cow.
Now listen, this is actually completely normal and over time, if you’re consistent with the practice, you’ll get better and your meditation practice will deepen, in ways that I can’t really explain with words.
In this article I’ll teach you one tip that I always use before meditating that will instantly improve your meditation practice, regardless of whether it’s your first session or your 1000th. But first, let me explain why it’s so tough to keep your thoughts quiet.
I’ve been meditating for six years, pretty much every day, I can say definitively that it’s the single most important habit that I’ve ever developed, but even with all of that experience, there are some days where I just can’t seem to focus, my thoughts feel like wild stallions that refuse to be reined in.
For example, in the middle of meditating, I might suddenly have an epiphany about a business idea that could make me millions or a YouTube video concept that could go viral. I’m struck with this sense of urgency where I feel like if I don’t stop meditating focus on these ideas, or write them down, I might lose them forever.
So here’s what I do before I meditate, and what you can do right now to drastically improve your meditation practice: Do the exact opposite of meditation, think as much as you can.
Before you meditate, spend at least a few minutes thinking about all of the important things you need to think about, this works even better if you use a journal because the process of organizing thoughts so that we can write them down is the equivalent of organizing the absolute chaos that is our minds, the same chaos that we’re trying to learn to control when we meditate. If you don’t have a journal, I recommend just talking out loud to yourself, talking is another great form of essentially creating order out of the chaos that is our mind, if you think about it, to speak is essentially to organize the chaos of our minds into a sequence of words.
So what should you focus on? Well, anything and everything that you think is importnat for you to focus on. If you’re someone like me who enjoys meditating first thing in the morning, you can start by focusing on what you need to do that day and allocate a little bit of thought to each individual task.
Which task should you do first, and why? If you have a task that was due a few days ago, why haven’t you completed it yet? How are you feeling today? What could you have done yesterday that would improve how you feel today?
If you’ve got something that’s really weighing on your mind, or maybe something really important just popped into your head, then focus on that.
Now, very important, I’m just providing some examples, it’s actually extremely important that you don’t follow a rigid framework, remember that the goal here is to think about all of the important things that you think you need to be thinking about, so just let it flow baby, there’s no right and wrong to this.
And how will you know when you’ve finished? Whenever you feel like being finished, much like meditation, you shouldn’t have a specific goal or intention, open your journal, uncap your pen, and whatever happens, happens.
What’s great about this strategy, is that by thinking about all of the important things that you needed to think about and then immediately sliding into your meditation practice afterward, you’ll feel lighter, less burdened, almost like you now have “permission” to not think about your thoughts, and my experience is that when I do this before I meditate, that my meditation is drastically improved, it’s as if I’ve just ejaculated all of my pressing thoughts onto the pages of that journal and now I’m calm, relaxed, and generally speaking, ‘primed’ for meditation.
Funny enough, a lot of people mistakenly refer to thinking about things intensely as meditation.
Like when you share an idea with someone and they respond that they’re going to “meditate” on it, if you want to infuriate a zen practitioner, tell them you’re going to ‘meditate’ on something and see how they respond.
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Ok, so in addition to improving your meditation practice, there are also two more benefits of this strategy that will further improve your ability to meditate.
The first additional benefit is that it improves your focus.
Thinking intensely about the things that you think you should be thinking about means “focusing” on those things, how much time do we actually spend every day really “focusing” on our thoughts versus just kind of jumping from thought to thought, exactly.
So by taking the time to focus on your thoughts before meditating, you’re also training your focus muscle, and guess what? Better ability to focus improves your ability to meditate. Meditation improves your ability to focus. See how those two work together?
The second additional benefit is that it helps you to improve on a daily basis.
By taking time every day to focus intensely on your thoughts, specifically your successes and failures and why they happened, you’ll essentially have created what’s called a “feedback loop” that will allow you observe and then implement the sort of incremental changes that you should be making, on a daily basis, which will add up to huge changes over weeks and months.
So to recap, right before you meditate, spend some time doing the exact opposite of meditation, by focusing intensely on the thoughts you feel you should be thinking more critically about, if you can, pull out a journal and write it all down. When you’re finished, you should feel much more calm and relaxed, which will greatly improve your meditation. Two added benefits are that you’ll also develop more focus, and create a feedback loop that will help you to grow a little bit every day.
Meditation is the most important skill in the modern age, good luck to you, my sweet sweet dairy cow.