Meditating with the Unruly Mind

How to have Satisfying and Productive Meditations, even with a Busy Mind

“If only my mind would just calm down and stop thinking for a few minutes!
Then I’d finally be able to get some peace …”

Ever felt like that while meditating?

I know I have!

When you’re struggling with an unruly mind, it’s normal to feel frustrated and discouraged.

At times like this it can seem like there’s so many thoughts zinging around in your mind, pulling you from one thing to another, that it’s almost impossible to do something as simple as “follow the breath”!

One minute, everything’s going great, and the next, you’re working on your todo list, or figuring out what to have for dinner, or thinking about that argument you had last night…

The Big Myth

But, as counterintuitive as it may seem, it’s actually not necessary to clear your mind or stop your thoughts to develop a powerful mindfulness and experience greater peace and calm.

In fact, one of the biggest misconceptions about mindfulness meditation, a misunderstanding that is one of the main reasons why so many people quit and never develop the benefits of their practice, is the idea that you’re doing it wrong if you can’t still your mind.

I’ve been meditating for over 23 years, and based on my personal experience, and the experience of hundreds of my students, I can tell you that having thoughts in your mind during meditation is perfectly normal and expected, and doesn’t need to be a barrier to effective practice.

When you understand how to skillfully work with your thoughts, you can have really satisfying and productive meditation sessions, regardless of how busy your mind is.

A Middle Path

But you need to approach your thoughts in the right way to make this happen.

And that’s where many, many meditators make a critical mistake.

By viewing their thoughts as an annoyance, something they need to get rid of, or by allowing their thoughts to run wild and derail their practice, they miss out on a fantastic opportunity…

…bringing mindfulness to the process of thinking itself.

This is the middle path between suppressing your thoughts on the one hand, and letting them hijack your meditation session on the other.

To do this effectively, you need to cultivate the ability to monitor the thoughts in your mind, without getting sucked into their content.

The Two Ways of Knowing Your Conscious Experience

Working with thoughts in meditation can be tricky.

There’s a progression you need to follow to develop the right skills.

Otherwise, it’s really easy to fool yourself into thinking you’re being mindful when you’re actually lost in ‘La La Land’!

Before I can show you how this progression works, I need to explain how it’s even possible to monitor something like thoughts, while paying attention to something else, like your meditation object.

It comes down to the two ways of knowing your conscious experience…




In a nutshell, attention is what you’re focusing on in any given moment.

Awareness is simply how you “consciously know” all the “other stuff” besides what you happen to be paying attention to.

Creating the right balance between attention and awareness is critical if you want to have an effective meditation session and not get lost in thought.

Here’s an example that many of my students find helpful for understanding the difference between attention and awareness, and how they relate to each other.

Example:You’re driving your car and paying attention to the cars in front of you.

But, of course, you also “know” about lots of other things, such as the scenery you’re driving by, the person sitting next to you, the sound of the wind or from the radio (or the car rattling =) ), the presence of cars beside you and behind you, and many, many other things.

That “knowing” of all those other things that provides the context for what you’re paying attention to is what I mean by “awareness”.

It’s not as clear as what you’re paying attention to, and you may not even really know what those other things actually are (in the sense of perceiving that the shape to your right is a pedestrian, or a tree, for example), but you are, nevertheless, conscious of the presence of these things.

And there is often a “knowing” of the relationship between those “other things” and between them and what you’re paying attention to.

Here’s a video excerpt from my mini-course, Meditating with the Unruly Mind, that explains in more detail the difference between attention and awareness and why understanding how to balance them is so important for effective meditation practice…

So now you can understand why so many meditators have difficulty with thoughts during their practice:

It’s because they don’t balance their attention to the meditation object with an awareness of all the other things in their conscious experience, especially all the thoughts arising in their mind.

And so they get blind-sided by their thoughts and end up spending much of their meditation session in ‘La La Land’.

A Simple, 3 Step Progression

Now that you know the difference between attention and awareness, you can use that knowledge to develop mindfulness in the presence of thoughts:

It’s a simple, 3 step progression:

  • Stage 1: Cultivate Spontaneous Moments of Mindfulness
  • Stage 2: Develop Your Early Warning System
  • Stage 3: Take Your Foot Off the Brake

I’ll describe each stage in turn, starting with…

Stage 1 – Cultivate Spontaneous Moments of Mindfulness

Do you remember a time when you were meditating and you had a lot of thinking going on?

Where it seemed really hard, maybe even impossible, to stay focused on your breath (or whatever your meditation object was)?

Most people try to deal with this kind of situation by using brute force.

They try to suppress or push the thoughts away and forcefully glue their attention to their meditation object.

As I’m sure you know if you’ve tried this approach, it doesn’t work for very long…

And it sets up the conditions for a very strained, frustrating and unproductive form of practice.

Fortunately, there’s a much more effective and elegant way to handle this.

A way that uses finesse rather than brute force.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that whenever you’re lost in the content of a thought, eventually you’ll ‘snap out of it’ and remember that you were supposed to be meditating.

I call this remembering a “Spontaneous Moment of Mindfulness”.

Stage 1 is all about increasing how often these moments occur.

So that when you do get lost in thought, you’ll quickly realize what’s happened and come back.

Spontaneous Moments of Mindfulness occur when your awareness causes your attention to shift out of the thought and back to your meditation object.

But because awareness isn’t under your conscious control, you need to train this process indirectly.

The way to do that is to be really pleased whenever a Spontaneous Moment of Mindfulness occurs.

This will positively reinforce the awareness that you’re no longer meditating.

And so it will happen more frequently, which is exactly what you want.

Your periods of being lost in thought will become very brief and you’ll spend most of your meditation session actually meditating.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of that, you’ll move on to…

Stage 2 – Develop Your Early Warning System

In this stage, you train your awareness to alert you when a thought process begins to compete for your attention, rather than after you’re already lost in it.

I call this the Mindful Early Warning System 🙂

This ‘early warning’ will allow you to re-energize your attention and refocus it on your object, before it wanders off into a thought.

As a result, you’ll rarely get lost in thought during your meditation session.

Developing an Early Warning System like this allows your attention to be quick and light and a keen observer of the mind and body, which is exactly what you need in order to develop a powerful mindfulness.

And with practice, this process becomes automatic, leading you to Stage 3…

Stage 3: Take Your Foot Off the Brake

In this stage, you learn to relax and surrender into the meditation.

Because you’ve mastered Stage 1 and 2, your attention stays nice and alert.

And even though you’ve let go of the need to be in control, you rarely get lost in thought.

This ‘relaxing into the meditation’ will allow you to notice the faster and more subtle processes that make up your conscious experience.

And when you do this, you’re meditation practice will take off like a rocket.

This is the stage where you begin to have insights into the true nature of your moment by moment subjective experience.

Insights that can radically transform both how you perceive and how you relate to that experience.

This is the domain of using mindfulness for spiritual development.

How to go Deeper

So that’s how the 3-Stage Progression works.

This is how to walk the middle path between suppressing your thoughts on the one hand, and letting them hijack your meditation session on the other.

Awareness of thinking is a powerful tool that you can use to deepen your skill in mindfulness, so that you can enjoy the present moment more and develop a greater sense of peace and calm.

Your meditation sessions will become more effective and enjoyable, making it much easier turn your daily practice into a rock solid habit.

And it can go much, much further than that.

In Stage 3, you can use mindfulness of thinking as a vehicle for exploring the underlying nature of the mind itself — a gateway to an incredible adventure of spiritual discovery.

If you’ve ever felt like you had to clear your mind or stop your thoughts so that you could have the kind of meditation session you wanted, or you weren’t really sure what you were supposed to do with that monkey mind while meditating, then you’re really going to enjoy and benefit from an online course I’ve created called “Meditating with the Unruly Mind”.

It’s designed to work with wherever you are in your current meditation practice, whether you’re a beginner or you‘ve been meditating for a while.

Even if right now, you spend much of your meditation sessions lost in thought, this course will show you how to consistently have sessions where your mind rarely wanders and you spend most or all of your practice time actually meditating and developing mindfulness — Without trying to suppress or push your thoughts away (which doesn’t really work anyway).

Meditating With The Unruly Mind

In this course, I’ll walk you though the 3-Stage Progression, step-by-step.

And I’ll show you how to practice it, and how to know when it’s time to move from one stage to the next.

I’ll also show you how to overcome some of the common hurdles most people face when learning to work with thoughts in meditation.

Including how to handle thoughts that have a heavy emotional charge.

In the course, I’ll give you some handy techniques for working skillfully with these kinds of thoughts so they don’t derail your practice.

You’ll learn how to diffuse their intensity and continue to meditate without needing to suppress them or avoid them.

And, finally, I explain how mindfulness of thoughts can serve as a doorway to spiritual development.

Mental activity is what creates the illusion of being a separate, abiding self.

By brining mindfulness to the thinking process itself, you can learn to see what’s really going on ‘under the hood’.

Here’s the complete outline for the course:

Start Here

Watch This First
Getting the Most Out of These Instructions

Fundamentals – First and Foremost

Cutting Through the Confusion: What Mindfulness Is and Isn’t
Noting: A Simple and Effective Way to Develop Mindfulness
Stopping the War: A More Useful Perspective on Thoughts
The Critical Ingredient for Effective Meditation Practice
Why Suppressing Thoughts Doesn’t Work

Finesse Over Force: How to Develop Mindfulness of Thoughts

A Simple, 3 Stage Progression
Stage 1: Cultivate Spontaneous Moments of Mindfulness
Stage 2: Develop Your Early Warning System
Stage 3: Take Your Foot Off the Brake
How to Practice the 3 Stage Progression
Some Examples and What to Avoid

What’s Next: How to Deepen Your Practice

How to Work With Emotionally Intense Thoughts
Using Mindfulness of Thoughts for Spiritual Development
Taking Your Mindfulness Practice to the Next Level

The course content is a combination of video instruction and written material and includes a 15 minute guided meditation practice to help you get started.

It’s designed so that you can work through it at your own pace and revisit the material as often as you wish.

And you can access it using your desktop computer, tablet or phone.

Here’s a screenshot so you can see what the course looks like.

Learning how to meditate effectively in the presence of thoughts will make your meditation sessions much more effective and enjoyable.

And it’ll make an enormous difference in helping you experience the benefits you’re looking for in your meditation, including…

  • being more mindful and in the present moment
  • feeling a greater sense of peace and calm
  • being more relaxed and less stressed
  • cultivating the conditions for spiritual awakening

It’s a synthesis of some of the most effective techniques I’ve learned over 23 years of practicing meditation and teaching thousands of students.

How Much Does it Cost?

You can get Instant Access to Meditating with the Unruly Mind for only $7

(Yup, less than a couple of fancy coffees ? ).

And if you change your mind for any reason within 60 days of purchase, just email me and I’ll give you a full refund.

And don’t worry, I won’t ask you any embarrassing questions or hassle you at all 😉

Click the “Buy the Course” button below for Instant Access to the course.

[stripe description=”Meditating with the Unruly Mind” amount=”700″ product_id=”1″ success_redirect_url=””]

Once you’ve completed the transaction, you’ll automatically be taken to a new web page that will explain how to get the most out of the course. In addition, you’ll automatically be sent an email with simple instructions on how to access the course.

If you have any questions about any of this stuff, shoot me an email:

74-3552 West 41st Ave, Vancouver, BC V6N 4J9, Canada
Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Contact Me | © 2016 30 Days of Mindfulness